Search results for negative emotions

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.

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Why Self-Esteem Alone Isn’t Enough

I mentioned in my last post “You’re Too Sensitive” that while I was at school my teachers had encouraged me to take courses for self-esteem. I went to a really bad school, but I believe that in this case they had the best intentions. It was interesting to look back now with what I know. It was popular for a while to focus on self-esteem, but it never worked for me. I tried courses and read books about it, and even though the advice was sound I never noticed any changes as a result of following it. Last year I learnt about another option called Mindfulness and for the first time my attempts resulted in a noticeable benefit. I felt happier and was finding it easier to motivate myself. I still struggle with bad anxiety, but I’m dealing with it better than I use to.

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“You’re Too Sensitive”

I was bullied badly at school, but when I approached my teachers about the situation I was told that it was just me being too sensitive. It’s true that I was incredibly shy at that age, but my teachers used that as a reason to treat me like I was made out of delicate china. On one occasion some boys came over for an arm wrestle and the teacher broke it up, asking me if I was ok afterwards as if I couldn’t handle it myself. Another time some kids came up to ask me about horror movies at which point the teacher answered for me that someone like me would never be into something so dark – couldn’t be further from the truth ;). There were admittedly times when I used their perception of me to my advantage, whenever others tried to tell on me – much to their frustration – the teacher would respond with something like, ‘I doubt that, she’s not capable of something like that.’

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Why Do I Enjoy Horror?

I enjoy a horror game or a movie from time to time, but most of the people I know find them to be really unpleasant or even distasteful. I find it difficult to explain why I’m drawn to horror, but it’s something that humans have been enjoying for a long time. I do have some barriers about what sort of content I feel is appropriate – I think this is different for each person -, but I also think that macabre is another way for us to express ourselves. It doesn’t mean that I like the thought of people suffering, but can be a way of coping with the darker side of life.

I have problems with anxiety, but horror gives me an opportunity to be brave. For some of us it’s a personal journey to test our own courage. Usually the scarier it is the better; The sense of achievement we get comes from sticking it out to the end. It can also help us to feel better about our own lives due to the stark contrast; No matter how bad times get, it doesn’t compare to our horror protagonist.

Horror gives us a bit of an adrenaline rush. I don’t actually enjoy the feeling of being scared, but I do like the relief that comes on the other side. When I reach the end credits of a survival horror game for instance, it can leave me feeling pleasantly giddy as the tension is released. This might also help to release some of the tension I’d already been feeling in my own life before starting the game. This is why I keep coming back; I walk away only remembering feeling good at the end, having forgotten all the scary parts. Apparently there have been studies that show we feel happier right after experiencing such an adrenaline rush. I can also make jokes and laugh at myself when I realize how silly I was for being scared.

I also like a good mystery, and it’s something that usually goes hand in hand with horror and our fear of the unknown. There’s that part of you that is terrified to go onwards, but at the same time curiosity gets the better of me. The exploration of the plot and learning to understand why things are happening is a part of the reward I get for sticking it out. I think I also enjoy exploration more when risk/reward plays a factor in it. I like my stories to be atmospheric too and as horror can be so emotionally heightened it can add to the engagement I feel with the world; My senses are more open to taking things in.

It’s difficult to explain why we would enjoy what are considered to be negative emotions and the reasons may differ from person to person. I think it’s OK to express ourselves in that way because it’s not real and it doesn’t have to define us. I’m actually a really sensitive person in real life, but horror gives me a bit of a thrill from a safe place.

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It’s ok to put Ourselves First (Codependency and Self-validation)

‘Nobody thinks what I think’
– Kitchen Sink by Twenty One Pilots.

For most of my life I’ve felt unseen. Others see me as the person they want me to be and not for who I really am; Despite knowing this it can cause me to doubt myself. It’s frustrating and can feel like a fight getting others to listen. I attempted to seek understanding and comfort for this, but discovered that no matter how much I tried to explain my feelings noone was able to quite grasp them. These people have had different upbringings to me. Their minds don’t work like mine. Our beliefs and perceptions don’t match. Some experiences are hard to understand unless you’ve been through them yourself. I’ve found that it’s easy to jump to wrong conclusions based on how you think you’d feel if you went through the same thing.

My own experiences have taught me that what I feel is less important than everybody else and that my thoughts need to be validated to feel real. This mindset is risky as it relies on others to give you what you need. It’s setting you up for a lifetime of resentment. I have difficulties speaking up about what I want and it seemed selfish to me when others just took without asking or offering. They cannot understand my demons because they do not carry those same unhelpful beliefs. They might have been happy to have shared with me if I’d simply asked, but negative responses for doing so in the past have taught me that it’s safer to keep quiet. Unfortunately this is a common problem, and it’s not our fault that we have such difficulties. I also respect people that can go out and get what they want instead of just complaining about it.

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My Interpretation of a Few Well Known Quotes

We have these quotes that attempt to shine wisdom on different aspects of our lives, but I’ve found their helpfulness to be varied depending on where and how they’ve been applied. My interpretation of these quotes are based on the ways in which I’ve observed them being used.

‘Life is tough’ and ‘sometimes you have to do things you don’t like.’
It’s easier to endure suffering if we can accept it as an unavoidable part of life that everybody experiences sometimes. Fighting everything that we don’t like will lead to frustration and it can be far better to practice patience and perseverance. I also think of this in terms of working towards long term goals, instead of falling to the temptation of short term rewards. If we focus too much on this statement however, we can feel guilty during the times when life isn’t tough and also resentful towards anybody that appears to be breezing through it. I’ve also found there to be two different approaches to the statement; If something isn’t working out I try to seek solutions to improve my situation, but others have used it for acceptance and a reason not to act. Our feelings are there to inform us when something is wrong and to be assessed to see if we can do something about it. For example, we might be really unhappy in a job that just isn’t going anywhere and this could be an indicator that it’s time to take a new direction in our life. On the other hand exercising patience and going through all of the tasks we don’t like could eventually lead to greater opportunities later on. Only we can know what feels right to us, even if others treat us like we’re shirking our responsibility in taking some of life’s hardships. It’s not worth worrying about the things that we have absolutely no control over, but otherwise why shouldn’t we seek solutions to help us to escape some of life’s hardships?

‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’
This statement has been used to comfort me. I do believe that hardship can make us stronger; It can teach us how to overcome obstacles and to solve problems in our lives. If everything always came easy to us we’d become complacent. I do believe my experiences have shaped my values, built my empathy and taught me what to avoid. If others mistreat us it can motivate us to work harder so as to prove ourselves. However, psychological wounds can be some of the hardest to heal from and I certainty don’t feel strong right now. My experiences have left me with learned helplessness, a difficulty to trust and a lot of self doubt, all of which pose challenges when striving towards my goals. Perhaps I’m strong in the sense that I keep getting up despite having such obstacles in my life, but I’d much rather not have the obstacles there in the first place. There have been times when hearing this has felt more like a justification to those that have treated me unfairly. We can’t change the past however and fighting it will only make us feel worse – blaming others never helps. As such the only thing we can do is to try and find the silver linings. My experiences opened my eyes to other problem areas in my life and I’m learning how to protect myself. It has also led me to seek spirituality to help me to live my life in a more positive way. In that sense I guess my experiences have made me stronger.

‘Time can heal all wounds’
It can be reassuring to us that with time we will be able to experience joy once more. I’ve found this to be true when experiencing loss. In the moment it’s very painful, but after a while it becomes easier to accept. Having been through this process a few times now I know for sure that it can pass and that I’m strong enough to get to the other side. As such I can be kind to myself while going through the process. Some problems are also very small when we put them into perspective. I might feel embarrassed about a social mishap, but will anybody still be thinking about this years from now? However, I do think it depends on the type of wound we are addressing. Some wounds require us to tend to them to allow them to heal. If we don’t they can continue to bubble back up the the surface years later. I made the mistake of trying to move on too quickly, and then because a lot of time had passed I felt ashamed to admit that the same issues were still causing me problems. The cause of the wound might not be directly influencing us anymore, but it might have changed us in some way that continues to impact our lives. For example, the anxiety, confusion, distrust and lack of self-esteem that arose from what happened. These types of wounds need more than just time to recover from. Some issues are also cyclical in nature, so they’ll keep aggravating themselves until addressed. For example, anxiety can affect how we behave in a situation, which in turn increases the anxiety.

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’
I use to hold onto this saying to remind myself to keep an open mind, and also to comfort myself when others were judging me based on factors such as my appearance. I think we’re all guilty of making judgements though. It’s a part of what makes us human. We have to be able to make judgements about things to protect ourselves from harm. If something looks dangerous, then we should avoid it – better to be safe than sorry. Too many of us ignore our gut instincts when they inform us that another doesn’t have our well being in mind. Unfortunately, our judgements can also be off due to our own interpretations of the world around us. For example, I’ve had bad experiences with certain sub-cultures, so when I see people dressed a certain way I feel wary. If I give some of them a chance I might find that I have misinterpreted the sub-culture and that they don’t all intend me harm. I see others judging Goth culture in this same way, as if it’s scary and unapproachable. This seems strange to me because Goth festivals have been some of the friendliest and safest places I’ve ever been to. In fact, the idea of not judging others based on their appearance is often emphasized at these events. It’s better to interpret this statement not as we should feel bad for judging, but that we need to think carefully about how we choose to act based on those judgements. We might be missing out on a chance to widen our minds if we allow our judgements to take full control. On the other hand, if we ignore all of our judgements we could end up getting hurt.

No Man’s Sky First Impressions

I didn’t understand why there was so much hype around No Man’s Sky. Every video I watched emphasized the scale of it, but offered very little on the actual gameplay. As the release date drew closer I became more intrigued, but was still on the fence about it. When too many promises are made in regards to the scale of a game it makes me wary because  there are limitations in regards to budget and time. Put too much work into one area and usually the project will suffer elsewhere. I much prefer quality over quantity. It’s cool to think that there’s this massive universe to be explored, but the majority of it will go untouched and as such I’d rather have a small and well designed area with the illusion of scale as opposed to lots of similar content that I’ll never see. I also suspected that the game might suffer from that problem of being really exciting to begin with – at the thought of all the potential space can bring – just to quickly lose engagement in its players due to the lack of goal driven things to do. A larger scale usually slows down the pace of a game too, as there could be a lot of travelling from A to B with nothing of interest in-between. Despite my doubts I eventually caved and put in a pre-order as curisosity got the better of me. I love the idea of being able to freely move between planets and while there are lots of space games available to buy, I’m still searching for the right one.

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What Compassion Means To Me

A while ago I read an article that claimed that we’ll regularly discuss moral values, but when we actually come across a person in need we won’t act upon them. These words have re-entered my mind on several occasions. It’s easier to discuss right and wrong in theory than it is to put into practice because life isn’t that black and white. When we introduce emotions into the mix we’ll often struggle to practice what we preach. In many cases we’re influenced by self-preservation; I’ve had my trust misused on a number of occasions and that can cause you to become wary of giving so much of yourself. It’s a shame that a trusting nature can be turned so easily against someone, and upon realizing the truth it can fill you with shame. There are so many scams using people’s good nature against them that it can be difficult to know which cases are genuine. I don’t feel comfortable being approached in the street for that reason, because the doubt about my own safety will come into play. I then feel guilty for not being more helpful.

Different moral values can clash, but can all be equally valid from our own stand point. It’s fun to discuss different scenarios and we can learn a lot from each other, but real life is rarely so simple. Our values might come about through how we wish to be treated ourselves; If we’ve had a tough life then holding onto them can bring comfort, even if we’re not always able to uphold them. For example, I am very anti-bullying because of what I went through at school. For a long time this seemed like an obvious stance to take, but then some would oppose my views by seeing things from the perspective of the bullies, like perhaps they’re having difficulty at home and are lashing out as a result. This can feel like adding further insult to injury, but I do understand that sometimes victims can become abusive themselves. Many will also feel regret afterwards. It’s challenging to accept hearing the other side when their behaviour has left such a negative impact on my own life. Sometimes we say things because we’re angry, but it doesn’t always correspond to what we actually believe.

I’ve since come to believe that to be a compassionate person we need to be able to understand why a person has acted a certain way even if we don’t agree with it. To be compassionate isn’t to tell people how to behave. If we take a moral high ground on someone then we can’t truly empathise with them because we’re putting ourselves above them. I’ve learnt that it’s better not to be too rigid in my values so that I can act flexibly within each situation that comes. If we never intend to cause harm then we’ll probably make the best choice we can in the moment. We all make mistakes too, but that doesn’t make us bad people. It’s easy with hindsight to consider how we should act, but when emotions are running high we don’t always think clearly. As such I think it takes a lot of strength to be able to act with compassion on all occasions. When we’re surrounded by a lot of negativity we can lose faith, but if we try to understand the world from other perspectives we might find that most people are well intentioned and just want to live a happy life like we do.

The Power Of Quitting

There are some wonderful thoughts on the blog ‘Into the Imagination Vortex‘ exploring the difference between letting go and giving up – Letting Go Gratitude and The Hunt For Resentment Gratitude. We frequently attach certain emotions to set actions, such as quitting. The problem is that such actions are neither good or bad, but just the decisions we make depending on the situation that we’re in. By only thinking of quitting as being a negative thing, we discourage ourselves from doing so when it’d be beneficial. A better way of thinking about it is that we’re letting go to free ourselves up for something else.

Letting go can be hard. It can make us feel like we’ve failed. We may feel guilty for letting others down. It could leave us feeling empty for removing something that we’re associated with. We may even feel grief for the loss. It also takes a lot of courage to commit to a decision that might result in us facing a new and uncertain future. The easy option is to continue plodding along as we always have, but that might not make us happy in the long run. I personally find that the biggest concern I have to making changes is in telling other people about it, because their own fears can fill us with doubt. I use to be more comfortable with giving lots of things a go, even if I was unsure. I was figuring out what was right for me by eliminating what was not. Only, there was this one time where a decision to quit was followed by words of disappointment. I know I did the right thing, because I was very unhappy, but it has put me off from trying new things. While it’s understandable that others will show concern for the decisions we make, only we know what feels right for us.

I’m not advocating giving up however. I’m a big believer in perseverance paying off. Choosing to quit is usually an informed decision, while many of us give up due to self-doubt and fear. To give up is to relinquish control, preventing us from being the person we want to be. Letting go on the other hand is to clear out what we don’t need, just as we throw out the clutter to make space in our homes. If we’re not careful we can be lumbered down with interests, values, beliefs or expectations that stopped working for us a long time ago. Choosing to get rid of this baggage can be an incredibly powerful decision to make as it frees us up to try out new possibilities. Just like the clichéd saying tells us, when one door closes another can open.

The video ‘Why To Quit‘ by Brendon Burchard is another excellent exploration of this topic that I recommend checking out.

Horizon: Are Video Games Really That Bad?

I got home to catch Horizon last night and it happened to be about video games; covering the negative issues that games are known for, such as violence and addiction. It turned out to be a fascinating delve into how playing video games can affect our minds. You’ll usually find people sat in one camp or the other, with either what feels like a vendetta against gaming, or being on the defensive; What I liked about this programme was that it gave a more balanced viewpoint and didn’t jump to any assumptions. It may disappoint those looking for a definite answer, but games are still too young for us to fully understand the impact they have had on our lives. Research will always be ongoing and new answers supporting one claim or another will continue to crop up. Part of what I find interesting about game development as a field is the fact that we’re still learning about how we can untap the true potential of video games.

I obviously lean towards wanting to believe that games can enrich our lives, but I also try my best to keep an open mind to anything on the contrary. I believe that most things have a good and a bad side, depending on how they are utilized. You get bad games, just as you can get bad films and books. I guess that’s why it bothers me when it’s usually only the darker side of gaming that we hear about in the mainstream media – it overlooks all of those games that have had a positive influence on people’s lives. It’s also important to understand the good and the bad so that better games can be designed around that; If games do indeed have an influence on our emotions and behaviour, then this too opens up the potential for games that can promote traits such as empathy (see ‘How Can Videogames Make You a Kinder Person?‘ by PBS Game/Show and ‘A Question of Empathy‘ by Extra Credits.)

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