We are told we should always try to think and feel positive, and there is something wrong with us if we have negative thoughts, and feelings. However, as humans, we have been given a range of emotions, and half of them are negative emotions.
For a moment, let’s consider that we are meant to feel negative emotions, as well as positive emotions. So, at least part of the time, we are meant to feel sad, lonely, angry, bored, anxious etc,. What would be the point of this? Shouldn’t we just strive to be happy all the time?
There are times when we all agree that negative emotions are appropriate. To use extreme examples, if we witness a kitten being abused, or someone close to use dies, do we want to feel joy and happiness? Of course not! That would make us a psychopath! We can all agree that, in these types of circumstances, negative emotions are totally appropriate.
But what about those other negative emotions like sadness, anxiety and boredom? Should we try to change these emotions, or think there is something wrong with us if we experience them?
Here is a thought. Can we truly understand how awesome peace is, if we have never experienced, conflict or discord? Can we fully appreciate feeling secure, if we have never been insecure? Can we really understand how great it feels to have a close relationship with someone, if we had never felt loneliness or distance? By experiencing a negative emotion, we can then appreciate our positive emotions to the full. For this reason, I believe we are meant to feel negative emotions.
Problems arise when we get stuck in an emotion, or we are experiencing an emotion too often. For instance, if we are sad a lot of the time, or we often get angry for little or no reason. In these cases, there is usually an underlying cause for the emotion. Trying to force ourselves to feel positive and happy, without dealing with the underlying cause, will not be very helpful. In these cases, getting professional help to recognise and treat the real problem, is highly recommended.
We also have some emotions that have no up-side to them. According to Brook Castello (the Life Coach School) these are, panic, confusion, doubt, worry, overwhelm and victimization. These feelings stop us from taking any useful action in our life. We tend to get stuck, and believe we are out of control, if we indulge in these emotions. Our thoughts and minds go in circular loops and we feel endlessly miserable.
In these cases, it is good to work on changing our thoughts, so that we change our feelings. For example, if we are thinking “I am confused”, we will feel “confused”. And the result we will get in our life is that, we end up doing nothing.
Whereas, we could change the thought to, “I don’t know what to do, yet”, in which case we might feel “optimistic”. And the result we will get in our life is that we are open to looking for an answer.
Negative emotions are not always bad. Sometimes it is good to notice that we are feeling anxious or bored (or whatever the emotion), and just accept it. Realise that it is a thought causing the emotion, and try to pinpoint what that thought is. Then we have the power to change our thought if we want to, or just stay with the thought and the feeling/emotion, until we are ready to move on.
Written by Lynda Timperley Btch, Dip Psych, Cert Life Coach.
Aknowledgement: Brook Castello. The Life Coach School.