Negativity Towards Negative Emotions
I come from a fairly hardy family that can always find a way to laugh and smile, even at the worst of times. I really admire that about them, but on the flip side I feel like we often deal with problems by keeping busy and distracting ourselves. I’ve gotten very good at putting a mask on my emotions and acting happy, even when deep down I’m not. There are days when everything I’ve been bottling up will suddenly spill out uncontrollably, old feelings that I didn’t deal with at the time. I think that many of us have learnt to deal with our negative emotions by concealing or running away from them. We can be pretty eager to give advice to others to help them to move past feeling bad too, as if happiness is the ultimate goal. I’ve started to wonder recently if this is really the most helpful way to handle things.
Whenever I feel upset I also have a mild panic about not wanting anybody else to notice. If I’ve been crying I’ll spend a long time attempting to conceal my red puffy eyes afterwards. If somebody does notice I’m instantly beset by guilt and shame. I criticise myself for not being a stronger person and for allowing myself to get carried away with my emotions. I do this even when it’d be perfectly reasonable for me to be upset, such as during the loss of a loved one. Quite obviously, behaving in this way only makes things worse, while a little self-compassion goes a long way. Life is full of ups and downs and it’s a normal part of the human experience to feel a whole range of emotions, good and bad. Most children don’t feel guilty for crying when they’re upset, but when we become adults we find it far more uncomfortable to deal with.
Negative emotions exist to inform us about things that might not be right, and only by accepting them can we start to find a way to make our lives a little easier. I read recently in the book ‘Why Can’t I Meditate?‘ by Nigel Wellings that a common misconception about mindfulness is that it’s going to get rid of your negative thoughts, when in actuality it’s about learning to comfortably sit with them; A lot of people consider themselves to be bad at meditation for this reason. It sounds a little odd that to overcome something you have to confront it, but in doing so we can better learn how to deal with our emotions rather than allowing ourselves to get swept away by them. It’s important to remember that we gain information on how to act from both our emotional and rational self, and they don’t always match up.
I try to lend a listening ear to others when they are down, but admittedly it’s not easy to be around people that are unhappy on a regular basis. There are some people that can totally change the vibe of a place the moment they enter. It’s particularly tough on very empathetic people, and it’s fair for us to put our well-being first and politely back away if we need to. If we can learn to acknowledge a person’s emotions without taking them on ourselves however, we can better support others while also keeping ourselves safe. Most people don’t realize when they’re being overly negative or how this affects the people around them; It’s possible that they’re struggling with self-critical thoughts and a few kind words will make all the difference.
I heard some good advice the other day on how to connect with people that have depression if you don’t understand how it feels yourself. While not everybody experiences emotions to the same intensity, it’s still possible to try and relate to them by remembering the times when we’ve felt unhappy, because we’ve all been there at some point right? It’s a common complaint that being told to ‘pick yourself up’ is insensitive, and I wonder if there would be as much taboo if we had a greater acceptance of negative emotions being a part of our lives. Instead of beating ourselves up every time we fail to dispel them we could learn better ways to live with them instead.
I get the feeling that many of us never learn how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way because we’ve spent most of our lives trying to push them aside, but it’s ok to take a moment to pause every once in a while when things get on top of us. Sometimes we just have to let them run their course and they will pass with time.
- Tiny Buddah – Why Letting Ourselves Feel Bad Is The Key To Feeling Better
- Psychology Today – Emotional Acceptance: Why Feeling Bad Is Good
- Thought Catalog – Why Sadness Isn’t Always A Bad Thing