Dealing with Negative Emotions and Understanding the Polarities of Emotions

November 7, 2016


In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. --- Theodore Roosevelt


Before you read further, I hope you have read the previous post.  


So what should you do with negative emotions and thoughts?  Here are a few simple but effective techniques –


  1. Acknowledge and accept them – they are as much a part of you as positive thoughts are.

  2. Do not rush to change your emotional state or suppress or repress them.

  3. Do not internalize your emotional energy which causes physical bodily harm.

  4. Do not use this energy in a destructive manner or damage your interpersonal relationships.

  5. Use this energy constructively by expressing them to another (third) person or express it through a journal or diary.  

  6. Recognize that this is a thought or feeling, like many others, that will eventually pass.

  7. Breathe slowly and deeply whilst learning to tolerate strong feelings.

  8. In Nidra (for those who have attended my workshops), imagine these feelings as floating clouds, give them an appropriate colour and see them pass.

  9. Write an imaginary letter or article or note so that you bring a sense of closure to an emotion or thought that is overwhelming.

  10. Check if you have an opportunity to move out of a situation that is making you miserable with unfailing regularity.

  11. Do mindfulness exercises or engage in Nirmiti Nidra to become aware of your present experience without passing judgement on it.


In order to live the life that most of us live in this modern world, it is impossible to avoid negative emotions altogether – because this is a world of politics, setbacks, conflicts, frustrations, obstacles and traumas.  We are far better off learning how to cope with those emotions and instead of feeling guilty and ashamed of them, learningfrom them.


Indeed, once my client or quasi-client accepts his thoughts, feelings and emotions, irrespective of whether he has branded them as negative or positive, he could see the situation with greater clarity and embarked on a journey that was both fulfilling and uplifting.


Negative emotions are essential to our survival too.  The so called negative thoughts or emotions can be vital clues to our subconscious mind, to a health issue, to a relationship.  The fact that these have survived and continue to flourish is because they demand your attention, it is thus that suppressing them is so fruitless, superimposing them with positive thinking superficial and pointless.  


We are spiritual beings in human form and as we traverse this journey called life, it is inevitable that happy contented feelings are interspersed with moments of sadness, frustration, grief, anger and remorse.  What is tragic is not that we have negative emotions or thoughts, but that these have forcibly become signs of weakness, inadequacy and vulnerability.


Bur our circle of influence is always smaller than our circle of control.  Who can deny that there are events beyond our control, personalities beyond our influence, factors beyond our reach and skills beyond our adequacy?  To presume otherwise is folly, we are human beings with both strengths and weaknesses, we have large areas of ignorance and inadequacy and we are surely vulnerable.  What is wrong with that?


Internalizing how we are really feeling has led to more problems that we are capable of coping with.  There is absolutely no reason to pretend that we are happy and positive all the time, although our goal is to maximize our happiness and cultivate positive feelings.  And whilst we would like to ignore or repress our negative emotions or thoughts, it is time to start learning to acknowledge them and accept them since they in turn lead to various benefits.


This article can help you gain a broader understanding.  The emotions expressed by humans can be divided into two broad categories. We can regard them as polarized, as opposite of each other, or we could just say that there is a dividing line where one type of emotions change into the other type of emotions. We can call the two types of emotions Negative and Positive. 


Negative emotions express an attempt or intention to exclude. Strengthening one's own position at the expense of others. Keeping bad stuff away, destroying what is perceived as a threat. Negative emotions are fuelled by an underlying fear of the unknown, a fear of the actions of others, and a need to control them or stop them to avoid being harmed.


Positive emotions express an attempt or an intention to Include. Taking the whole into consideration. Working on learning more viewpoints, interacting more with others, enjoying making things better. Positive emotions are fuelled by an underlying desire for enjoyment and unity.


Examples of negative emotions are apathy, grief, fear, hatred, shame, blame, regret, resentment, sadness, pessimism, guilt, anxiety, mindlessness, anger and jealousy.


Positive emotions are, for example: interest, enthusiasm, boredom, laughter, empathy, action, happiness, ecstasy, curiosity.


Some emotions camouflage as positive or negative, but really are the opposite of what they pretend. There is a type of pity which appears as genuine concern for others, but which is rather taking comfort in that somebody else is worse off than you. There is a covert hostility that masks as friendliness, which can often be difficult to assess at first. Likewise, some kinds of anger or tears might look negative, but might really be an expression of involvement and care for the whole. It is the underlying mechanism and motivation that counts, more than the superficial outward manifestation.


It might sound like the negative emotions are just something to get rid of. It is not that simple, however. They serve important functions. Basically they show that there is something one doesn't know and can't deal with. If that becomes motivation to then learn it and deal with it, and that is very useful. If one is always joyful, one might miss noticing things that are wrong.


Positive and negative emotions are polarities. We can't get rid of one and just keep the other. Ultimately they need to be integrated. NLP has an awesome technique for integrating polarities. The negative emotions are useful as motivation for moving away from what one doesn't want. The positive emotions are useful as motivation for moving towards what one does want.


Like the Ying and the Yang, both positive and negative emotions co-exist.  One merges into the other and has to be integrated.  Both have a place in our lives.  Both are useful energies.  None can exist without the other.  The universe is a zero sum game – nothing is completely positive or entirely negative


Continued in the next post on my blog.

The author, Rajesh Seshadri, is an internationally recognized Certified Leadership Coach, Certified Success Coach and Certified Life Coach.  He is also a NLP Master Practitioner, facilitator and therapist.  The basket of therapies is holistic and integrative adopting techniques from Psychotherapy, NLP, Silva, Gestalt, Hypnosis and Silva UltraMind. Additionally, he is a seasoned corporate professional who continues to serve as a whole-time Director and Board Member. You can contact him here.

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