We grow up being told half of the emotions we feel are bad and we shouldn’t have them. We’re told off when we throw a temper tantrum, told to be brave when we feel afraid, told “big girls don’t cry” when we feel sad. We’re trained to suppress our negative emotions from young, and taught that sorrow, pain and frustration are not nice feelings.
So as we grow from children to adults, we never learn to face those darker emotions in our spectrum. We have them for a reason. Fear tells us when we’re in danger and prepares us to fight or flee. Without it, our ancestors would never have survived. Anger lets us know that something is happening that we’re not aligned with vibrationally. It’s a sign that we can either stay in the situation or change it. And sorrow lets us know that there is pain in our emotional body that needs nurturing, not our contempt. Negative emotions bring our awareness to the fact that something isn’t right and needs our attention, whether this is in our relationships, health, career or another area of our life.
In a coaching session the other day, a client was discussing a problem they were having at work and how it was making them feel. In the midst of explaining their situation, they stopped and apologised for being so negative. I found it surprising, since the point of coaching is to identify areas clients want to improve in their life, and without the negative emotion telling them they were unhappy, angry or frustrated with a certain area – how would they know that this is something they wanted to change, or find the empowerment to make those changes?
In reality, positivity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and can actually be detrimental to your well-being when taken to extremes. In the midst of a situation where you are feeling threatened or lost or confused, positive mantras are not going to help you feel better and indeed only exacerbate the negative emotions you are feeling. What you resist, does indeed persist.
Practicing simple mindfulness and being present with your negative emotions, no matter how painful these are, can instead help you process and move past the feeling faster than backing away from them, suppressing them or ignoring them. I’ve known people who have made it their life mission to ignore and run from their negative emotions, and as such I’ve watched them stumble and repeat the same pattern of behaviours exacerbating their issues.
Simply acknowledging how you feel can be powerfully releasing. Don’t rush to change your emotional state instead breathe into it, in slow measured breaths. Realise that you are not the feeling, but the feeler of the emotions, you are the observer of the thought. This distance and perspective can help you process the feelings without being overwhelmed by them. If the emotions do feel overwhelming, journaling is a powerful tool to express these feelings in a healthy way.
I went through a personal and deeply upsetting experience last year and I found myself consistently journaling during this period of time. I wrote down all the anger, rage, betrayal I felt. Every negative emotion, every upsetting thought, everything I wish I’d said to the person who had hurt me. I cried my heart out and onto the pages. It took a few weeks and then it was done. I was able to move past the heartbreak surprisingly quickly.
The second time around I tried to adopt an attitude of positivity and instead ignored the feelings of betrayal, upset, sorrow and the grieving period that naturally comes with loss. Instead of helping me heal quicker, that suppressing of emotions caused me to linger with those feelings and to have inappropriate outbursts at inappropriate times.
Instead of acknowledging how I felt and what had happened, I tried to throw a positive spin on it, thinking that by staying positive I would avoid attracting more negative experiences to me. This is misunderstanding of the simple Law of Attraction process. It’s not about being positive when you feel your world is falling apart. It’s about standing in the midst of it, and letting the feelings flow through you, safe in the knowledge that this too shall pass, that you’ve survived every bad day you’ve ever had 100% per cent of the time. Resisting and pushing against the feelings don’t help them go away. It’s only through mindfulness and acceptance that we can release the sorrow and grief and move forward with clarity. It’s only through acceptance of where we stand, that we can see the path to where we want to be.