3 ways to help you navigate through negative emotions – OR – Happiness isn’t all about puppies, rainbows and unicorns. There’s a place for negative emotions too
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Ego versus our True Selves. I talked about how Jen Sincero calls the Ego the Big Snooze and how it’s that voice in our head that cautions us against every possible thing that might be the least bit risky.
Don’t play there, you might skin your knee!
Don’t talk to those people they might be mean to you, or maybe they’ll con you into giving them all your money.
Don’t apply for that job, you might bomb the interview and make a fool of yourself.
Don’t say yes to that friend who just invited you to take a trip with them, you might end up getting kidnaped or robbed!
Really, Big Snooze!?
But that’s the Ego’s job! It’s to keep you in Fear. That way you stay safe.
This means if you listen to it, you stay in that boring job that you hate. You stay home and never travel and experience other cultures and you never have adventures. You don’t meet new interesting people. You basically don’t go out and have fun. Ever.
But Mel, you ask, you talked about the True Self. What’s that? And how do I know the difference?
Well, that’s easy. Your true self is when you feel truly alive. It’s how you feel when you’ve accomplished something you weren’t sure you could ever do. Like when you signed up to run that 5K for charity even though you’ve never run anything before, and you actually DID it. It’s who you are when you’re doing that thing that totally lights you up inside – maybe it’s painting, dancing, writing music, writing stories, volunteering for your community, hiking, camping, doing yoga, or designing.
You know what it is. As you read this I bet you’re thinking about it right now.
Your True Self comes out when you’re feeling confident, when you’re having fun, when you’re feeling excited about something.
And so normal human life, as I see it, is sort of this constant little battle between the Big Snooze and your True Self – call them the little angel and the little devil on your shoulders if you like. Sometimes the True Self wins in a given moment, and sometimes it’s the Big Snooze that wins.
And it’s ok.
You’re not meant to just be happy all the time.
Ok so think of it this way:
What if our negative emotions had a purpose?
I mean, think about it from an evolutionary standpoint. When we were cavemen, Fear saved our butts. Fear is the reason we’re here today, really. If we didn’t experience fear, we would all be extinct because we wouldn’t have run away from that big hairy beast that was stalking us or storming our cave.
And Anger? Yeah that saved us too. Anger allowed us to protect our families, our homes, our children. Without Anger, we’d be dead too. Oh an anxiety? Yup, that was useful too. It allowed us to think ahead about the weather that was about to change, and prepare for those cold winters, or those nasty storms. It allowed us to stop and listen for the sound of rustling in the distance that told us a predator was near.
So now, you must be thinking That’s all fine and dandy, Mel, but um, in case you hadn’t noticed, we don’t live in caves and run away from giant hairy beasts anymore. They run from us.
What if there was still a purpose for your negative emotions and it’s just that this purpose has evolved along with you?
What if we used our emotions as sources of information?
Think about it. Say you encounter something that makes you angry. Say you witness a scene where a person is beating down on someone else, maybe with their fists, maybe with their words, and that makes you so angry it makes your blood boil.
What does this tell you? It means this is not something that you like. It’s not something you wish to tolerate. And what does Anger do? Maybe it gives you the power, the courage to speak up, and come to that person’s aid. Maybe it touches you so deeply that it makes you join a group that does works on anti-bullying so that no one else has to live through that again.
Maybe that Anger just gave you a purpose.
What about Fear? you ask
Ah Fear. Fear is a big one for me. Fear sneaks up on me all the friggin’ time and messes with my vibe just when I feel like I’m on a roll. I did an exercise the other day around Fear where I had to really dig deep down to figure out what was truly at the root of the fear I THOUGHT I had. And you know where it led me? To a bullshit belief about not being good enough, not being worthy. Do you recognize whose sneaky voice that is? Yup, you guessed it. Big ol’ Snooze himself.
You don’t want to be successful, he says, because people are just going to see you for who you really are, and that’s nobody important that has nothing intelligent to say.
I really hate that guy.
You see what Fear does? It tries to cripple you so that you don’t do anything you want to do. But what the Big Snooze doesn’t understand is that Fear is a spotlight that shines right into the shadow that BS was hanging out in being all sneaky.
Feeling fear is the information I needed in order to find where BS was hiding so I could go AHA! Gotcha! I see you now, BS! And you’re not going to stop me now. I’m going to keep walking in this direction, towards this thing I want to be, or do, or have because… and then I list my WHYs.
Because by the way, you’ll have a really hard time achieving ANY goal if you don’t Schwartz it up with a Why (that’s a Spaceballs reference, btw – Yes, BS, we’ve gone over this. I’m a giant nerd and proud of it. Now leave me alone). I’ll write more on WHY in a later post.
Negative emotions of all kinds each have a purpose. And these three things can help you navigate their treacherous waters
- Give yourself permission to be human
We are human. We have the glorious ability to feel such a beautiful broad spectrum of emotions. We just need to find a different term for these so-called “bad” emotions so we don’t keep beating ourselves over the head every time we feel anything less than good.
- Appreciate the negative emotions – they’re good too!
Because the positive emotions wouldn’t feel as good as they do if you didn’t have negative emotions. If all you had to eat, all the time, was cake, and chocolate and all the delicious foods you like to eat, soon, your favorite dishes wouldn’t taste so good anymore and they would begin to taste bland. You NEED to experience negative emotions every so often, if only so that you can come back and experience joy and love and excitement in just the wonderful ways they should be experienced.
- See negative emotions as pieces of information
And in so doing, you deflate their intensity. In learning something from the negative emotions we experience, we grow. And growth is the fabric of life. When we choose to learn from our negative emotions, we let ourselves off the hook for not being perfect. When we allow ourselves to learn from our negative emotions, we can discover new pieces of ourselves and possibly allow ourselves to heal, or to find purpose, or to forgive, or to find our personal power.
And those all lead to us being our True Selves more of the time; and that is a divine feeling indeed.