If you are anything like me, for a long time I believed that negative emotions were to be avoided at all costs. And, the fact that I was having them meant there was something wrong with me. As a result, all my efforts were focused on suppressing these emotions and when I couldn’t seem to suppress them, I spent a lot of energy beating myself up about it.
It took me many hours of therapy, training, reading and reflecting to realize that negative emotions are a necessary part of life, and (if you let them), can be your path to living a happier life. So, I hope this post adds some value and assists you in transforming your negative emotions into something empowering:
Step 1: Stop and Breathe
When you notice yourself moving into a negative feeling – i.e. a place of feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, misaligned, distressed – stop and take 3 deep, deliberate breaths.
Step 2: Name what you are feeling
Too often, we don’t even know what we are feeling or we limit the range of our emotions to happy, sad or angry. Take a moment to go a bit deeper and perhaps tap into a wider range of emotions. Below is a list of some negative emotions you can use as a guideline:
- Indifferent Boredom
- Confusion Frustration
- Irritation Impatience
- Disappointment Discouragement
- Pessimism Doubt/Lack of Faith
- Distrust Grief
- Fear Anxiety/Worry
- Lost Insecurity
- Loneliness Emptiness/Disconnection
- Resentment Blame
- Revenge Hatred
- Rage Jealousy
- Powerlessness Hopelessness
- Guilt Unworthiness
- Shame Depression
Step 3: Notice where the feeling resides in your body
For many of us we live primarily in our heads and don’t pay much attention to our bodies. However, our emotions always express themselves somewhere in our body. It is important to notice how negative emotions show up in your body: 1) to help you get clearer on what you are feeling; and 2) to gain a better understanding of how this emotion is affecting you. For example, anxiety and fear can show up as a stomach ache or a tightening in your chest – so when you have that feeling it can serve as a cue to assist you in recognizing and acknowledging that you are feeling anxious or fearful.
Step 4: Accept the feeling and listen to what it is trying to tell you
Negative emotions have gotten a bad rep in our culture. Many of us believe we are supposed to be happy all the time or that having emotions (other than happiness) is a sign of weakness or abnormality. As a result, we put more effort into not feeling the emotion and pushing it aside, than simply paying attention to it and finding out what it is trying to tell us. You will move much faster through a negative emotion if you accept that you are feeling it and then listen to what it has to say.
For example, when I am feeling insecure in a given situation, if I can accept this feeling I don’t have to waste anytime denying that I feel insecure or beating myself up because I feel insecure. Instead, I can ask the feeling of insecurity what it wants me to know. In most cases, it is a sign that I am living from my ego, which usually confines me to the limiting belief that my value is only measured by what I do, what I have and my roles in life. It indicates to me that I have forgotten that I am bigger than my circumstances, I am connected to a universal energy far greater than myself and (most importantly), I am worthy simply because I exist. When I stop and reconnect to that wisdom, my feelings of insecurity shift.
Step 5: Ask yourself “What is the Most Loving Thing I can do for Myself in This Moment”
After you have figured out what your negative emotion wants you to know, you then practice self-love by asking yourself the above question. This act makes you feel better, in part, because it stops the self-judgment/inner criticism from taking hold of you.
In the example I gave above with me feeling insecure, a self-loving act I could take includes repeating an affirmation such as “I am enough” (check out Louise Hay’s work on affirmations). I could also ask the universe to support me in letting go of my ego’s need to be ‘all knowing’ or superior, and instead, allow my curiosity and wonder to guide me on how I can show up authentically in the experience and release feelings of inferiority.
Whatever the act of self-love is, this exercise helps you learn and practice how to lovingly meet your own emotional needs in any given situation.
What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear from you about what you have found helpful in transforming your negative emotions or if you have tried the above 5 steps.
My passion is to help people discover their truth, so if you’re curious about how I can help you on that journey, please reach out and send me a message to book a free 30-minute consult.
Looking forward to connecting!