Being human means we get to experience a broad range of thoughts and emotions, and this time of year can drum up more heaviness and heartache than is socially or commercially acknowledged. When negative feelings arise, we typically do everything in our power to avoid them. Getting triggered with anger, sadness, confusion, grief, anxiety, depression is wildly uncomfortable and even painful. So, naturally, we resist. And, because they come from within, it’s easy to compound and internalize negative emotions with self-blame. In other words, we hate the emotion, AND then we make ourselves wrong for having it in the first place.
But, what if our negative feelings were actually a good thing? What if they were signposts guiding us toward growth? What if each time we had an internal negative experience, instead of resisting, denying, or numbing, we simply let ourselves BE? Negative emotions represent energy that needs to be released. When we don’t allow them to pass through us, they get stuck in our bodies only to manifest later on in the form of illness, stress, disease, anxiety, breakdowns, etc. So, the best (and fastest) way to move past them is to move through them.
Being with negative emotions isn’t easy. It requires consistent practice and unwavering diligence. Our knee jerk reaction is always going to be to resist, so we have to work hard to recognize and interrupt the pattern. The mind can be the hardest muscle to work, but you CAN retrain it the same way you train other muscles in your body.
How to BE WITH and MOVE THROUGH negative emotions:
Stop and notice: Being consciously aware of the thought or feeling is the first step to seeing a separation…that it is something we have, not something we are. This helps us remember that it is not permanent and will pass.
Resist the urge to deem it “wrong/bad”: When we add a negative connotation to our thoughts and feelings, we amplify them. Our brain creates a story and significance about it that can add weight, while our body’s nervous system response gets heightened.
Self-regulate: Down-regulating strategies are great ways to calm your nervous system. Here are some simple things to practice:
Get grounded in the present moment by noticing your body and your surroundings. Focus your attention on something tangible in the room. Feel the places where your body meets the surface beneath you, or where your feet meet the ground. Feel the unpleasant sensations in your body, and instead of resisting, lean into them. Notice their quality. What does it feel like? Now find a more pleasant sensation in your body and focus on that. What is the quality there?
Self-soothe with things that comfort you:
A bath; a warm cup of tea
Notice the comfort and beauty of the environment;
Spend time with pets/animals
Gently rock yourself;
Try restorative yoga;
Go for a walk in nature and take in the peaceful qualities of the environment;
Take inventory of what’s going well (i.e., make a gratitude list)
When we feel like we can’t control our thoughts and emotions, these techniques can be extremely helpful in getting back to our center. Consider them essential tools, not to get rid of the negative thoughts and emotions, but to accept and move through them with more ease and grace. Practice them enough and they become second nature.
The most important thing to remember is that negative emotions are part of the human experience, so when you encounter them, BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. Being kind to yourself as you’re being present to your experience is the greatest gift — and best advantage — you can give yourself.
In the next post, I’ll share about what we can actually gain from our negative thoughts and feelings, and how they can actually be blessings.