Updated: Jun 14, 2021
The power of negative emotions is phenomenal! They contain the wisdom to change your life, to help you to become awakened, enlightened, empowered and they hold the most magic when it comes to personal growth and transformation. All emotions hold that wisdom as it happens, because they are the messangers of our unconscious and our true essence.
So in theory this sounds great....apart from the 'negative' part, we don't really like the sound of that....after all, it's not very positive :D ....and we live in a world where it's all about positive psychology these days! Can't we just focus on turning that frown upside down then...??!
Well, I am a big fan of positive psychology as it happens, however, the exploration of negative emotions is not to be overlooked. Once we have a thorough understanding or our own emotions (including the negative ones) and have a technique to allow them, make peace with them and then learn from them, we can combine this with reaching for wellbeing and positivity. That is an absolutely winning formula and one that lays the foundation for consciously working with the law of attraction effectively.
The danger of missing the incredibly vital step of honouring the negative emotions and heading straight to positivity, is a bit like laying a plank of wood over a crater in the floor.....there's still a hole to fall down later at any moment! It will get you to a certain point and it might look like it will work...for now, but it's very temporary and doesn't serve as a solid foundation.
So why do we struggle with the concept of allowing negative emotions? Well, we might not have even considered the concept at all! A natural reaction to us feeling any negative emotion is to SHUT IT DOWN! This comes through loudly thanks to the ego. The ego is just doing it's job, keeping us alive and wrestling to the ground (fight/resistance) or getting us the hell away from (flight/resistance) anything that poses a threat to that survival! It is seen as dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. This is how we are able to supress and repress and deny and avoid any uncomfortable feelings for decades! Some people never discover the hidden meaning in their emotions but can then become physically ill.
We are designed to move away from pain. So it's very likely you might have never really given yourself the opportunity to practise feeling into negative emotions. We do not like to feel bad and that's not our fault, it is how we were designed. Until we become more aware of how we can work with these emotions, we will generally take natural action to avoid the feelings they are creating altogether.
Avoidance strategies include but are not limited to: medication, self-harming, alcohol, drugs, sex, emotional eating, workaholism, avoiding being alone, doing something to gain attention, keeping busy, screen distraction eg TV, scrolling on social media/checking phone etc, having a panic attack, causing an argument, deciding that the problem is something at surface level and outside of us.
What are negative emotions? I would say shame is one of the most common that comes up for people, often lurking deep in the subconscious and not always understood. Other negative emotions would include the likes of guilt, anger, grief, fear, hatred, blame and resentment.
What can we do when they crop up?
I have a powerful technique that works for me and many other people, it's widely practised but it is what you might call a spiritual practice. I am not a medic on any level so if your beliefs are limited to a clinical approach, then this is not for you.
In my opinion (and that of many others), the way to completely change the game when it comes to handling negative emotions is to allow them, practise a level of acceptance, instead of wanting to get rid of them instantly and feel good again, be with them. Tell your body that you are listening and you are not going to bog off (we do this when we avoid them, distract ourselves, deny that they exist or activate the fight or flight system). Essentially, stay with yourself!!! It can be very challenging and I am not suggesting that you put yourself under further stress, however, when you relax and become ok with the idea of not feeling good for a short space of time and actively being with that sensation, it can have miraculous results.
We have the capacity to sit with our own feelings and when we accept them without the resistance, they will move through us far more quickly. You will hear me say that what you resist, persists, because it is a big theme in the world of emotions! The more we try and deny our feelings, the stronger they will return until they become so loud, that it is impossible to ignore them any longer and could lead to a breakdown or burnout etc. They can't actually hurt us, it is only our perception of them that causes us the problems.
Once you have accepted that the feeling is there and you haven't run off or entered into a distraction/avoidance tehchnique or spiralled into panic (the panic comes when you start having fearful thoughts and attaching meaning/interpretation to them) then simply be with yourself and the feeling. Check in with your breathing, you can keep yourself calm in the midst of the discomfort by allowing yourself to breathe deeply and fully which is a form of kindness to yourself and you definitely need an attitude of self-compassion for this practise (not judgement).
Next, identify whereabouts in your body you feel the discomfort, is it in your chest, is it the pit of your stomach, your throat, there are no right or wrong answers, just feel into it. You can try and describe it to yourself, stay with feeling language rather than getting into your thoughts. We have a tendency to start analysing the feeling, to want a rational explanation of why it is there and a label to slap on it, but that is yet more resistance to it! Stay out of your head and get into your body, this is the language of feelings. Give it space. Let it move through you, this will happen when you allow it with no time frame or expectation, let it flow.
We block the flow/ the channels when we bring resistance to it. Resistance is any feeling or thought of us not wanting what we are experiencing. In the same way, when we have experienced a panic attack, the subsequent ones happen through the fear of us not wanting to have another one or the idea that it would be the worst possible time to have one....a great example of our resistance to the issue being the catalyst. Resistance can also show up in the form of the meaning we give to the feelings. When we interpret negative emotions as being a sign we are going backwards on our journey or when we identify with them and fear that we are a bad person, that is resistance.
When we honour the emotions and breathe through them without resistance, they will dissipate and they will be over soon enough. You will likely feel incredibly empowered at being able to do this, not for the pleasure of the ego but just the inner knowing that you have stayed with yourself.
The key is in not getting the brain involved in terms of analysing the feelings, not to attach meaning or a story. Just to be with the feelings and the body. I suppose it's a similar idea to meditation in terms of not getting entangled with thoughts but just to stay in the space and detach from any specific outcome. This process is entirely different to what happens when we ruminate and become stuck in depression. We are not engaging with the thoughts we tell ourselves, our interpretations nor are we attributing meaning or connecting with a negative story, limiting beliefs or painful memories etc. We are not giving energy to the thought process, the focus here is on the feelings in the body and bringing the breath to it.
When the ego comes in to protect you by distraction or over-thinking or panic etc you can let it know that it's OK, soothe it, acknowledge and be grateful that it is just trying to keep you safe but reassure it that you are not in actual danger.
The next stage one you are absolutely clear of the negative feelings (really, really important to be neutral and in a position of feeling well) is to reflect on what wisdom these emotions have for you. This is a very general example or approach as these feelings are deeply personal to the individual. In my 121 sessions where this is being explored, I would be able to suggest specific techniques and practices, but in this case, here are some general questions to consider. I would recommend grabbing a pen and notepad and exporing your answers on paper.
What do you think these feelings were trying to tell you?
What might need to be healed from within?
If that feeling was coming from your inner child, what do they need to hear or know from you to feel safe?
How will you soothe yourself in a healthy way?
What can you do to apply self-compassion?
What can you put in place to support yourself?
How would you like to experience it next time and how can you feel OK about this (no resistance)?
What have you learned about this experience and yourself?
For some people, negative emotions can be completely obvious and expected and for others, they can cause confusion when on the surface we don't appear to have anything to feel negative about.
If this has been helpful to you and you would like to explore the kind of work I do which is all about shifting the inner barriers to living a fulfilled and successful life, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07789911174.
For more info, head to my website www.amandagreencoaching.co.uk