I need to preface this by saying I am passionate about the role that emotions play in our lives. I view them as guiding agents along our paths. They are not meant to be rationale or logical. They originate from our heart-talk, our heart chakra, and represent our best interests and desires.
As a therapist and an empath, it is really frustrating for me to see how negative emotions are stigmatized. It is inaccurate and really unhelpful to anyone surviving a negative state. I understand that they are uncomfortable and most people would prefer to exist in a place of joy or peace. However, though they are unpleasant and sometimes overwhelming, they are not inherently bad. Often, they are indicators of needed change and shifts.
Some people recognize the value and need to fully experience and process negative emotions. They “lean in” and work on them until the emotional charge neutralizes. These are a rare few and they have all done this process repeatedly. Thus, they know all emotions are transient and moving through (not around) negative affect is truly the only way to regain inner peace.
We are not usually taught how to lean in. This is not an innate skill. Oppositely, we are blamed for having negative emotions. The issue becomes our feeling, versus the problem being THE problem. Similarly, due to the high discomfort most people have with another’s negative affect, people often make statements to help “push” us into a different emotional state. Some noted repeats: “Stop feeling bad for yourself” “Don’t be __ “ “It was meant to be”” Don’t let it get to you”. Though the intent is to be helpful, it is usually hurtful and makes us feel alone. It is already stressful to find yourself in a dark or low place. To feel alone in that space is even worse.
We cannot escape negative emotions. They are an inherent part of life. Dismissing them, ignoring them, stuffing them, cerebralizing them, and numbing against them DO NOT WORK. It may seem as though it does but only for a short while. As I will address in future writings, these avoidant processes cause negative emotions to stay with us. Our bodies are a storage system for them. We might not always be aware of their presence but don’t be fooled. They pop up like a scary jack-in-the-box and often manifest in over-reactivity and physical ailments. Unless dealt with directly, they just get carried forward into life.
In my practice, I have devoted a lot of time in teaching people how to manage the flow. It is not a complicated process but it takes effort. It requires one to feel vulnerable and interplay with the array of emotions they have resisted for years. Sometimes that work also entails repairing the connect between mind/body when numbing has become an automated response. This is very common with those with a background of trauma.
Negative emotions are often an indicator of us being out of alignment with our sense of purpose or integrity of being. This may seem not the case for complicated emotions, like grief, but I can address specifics in later writings. Generally speaking, negative emotions signal something is out of sync or not aligning as we need. They can be stressful as they often alert to a needed change or for someone to address a stressful topic. Sometimes, we may not feel ready to acknowledge that need and we spend time and effort avoiding the feeling. It has been both my observation and clients’ reports that they spent more time avoiding the work than doing it.
I strongly believe that it is critical for happiness and progression forward that a person has the tools and skills to manage the flow of all emotion. It is my hope that each person finds a safe place and person to share this with. Some people have friends or family that really know how to “sit in the ick” with them. If not, I encourage those who don’t to seek out the resources to build that for themselves as everyone is deserving of a compassionate and listening ear. Empathy and validation is the most powerful tools in allowing a person to move his/herself into a more positive state.
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