How we deal with unpleasant (negative) emotions is what makes the difference

Being positive and grateful for your blessings is a powerful tool that might drive you much further on in your life in comparison with being pessimistically “realistic” about life. Your life energy will grow and your passion for life and different activities will multiply. This will also affect other people around you. You will be like a motivating force for them and this will further on reinforce your positive outlook.

However, when things get rough and you hit the bump on the road, the so-called negative feelings will naturally arise and you might feel even overwhelmed, disappointed, defeated. I said so-called negative, because of our tendency to label them as negative. Nevertheless, they are an intrinsic part of our minds and body physiology. We cannot choose and pick which emotions will stay with us and which ones we do not want to experience. Psychologists, especially, psychotherapists, prefer the word unpleasant feelings. We still acknowledge their valence, their unpleasantness for us, but we do not label them. We acknowledge their purpose and their importance for us.

Unpleasant feelings are just like the pleasant ones, they are signals from our bodies that there is something going on which we do not like or do like in the case of pleasant feelings. Or, that something happened that we interpreted in a negative light, however the event itself could be seen from different angles and somebody else might experience it in a completely different manner. However, our feelings are real for us and they carry a meaningful message that should drive us in a certain direction of changing the unwanted situation or at least changing our perspective of the situation. Cognitive reappraisal is the psychological term used when we try to give a new meaning to the situation, we see a positive side of the story and this softens the hurt or anger. Sometimes, if the emotion is too strong this is not possible because we just need this tremendous emotional charge to go away somehow. A walk around the corner may help to alleviate the pressure. Any kind of physical action actually, as long as it not directed against someone else. This is because emotions prepare our bodies to fight or flight, and if we do not do anything, the energy will get stuck inside our organism and the feeling will stay longer with us triggering toxic thinking patterns.

However, if the pain does not go away, or it comes back, what should we do. Being mindful can help. Observing your thought patterns and how they affect your emotions can shed some light on this mechanism. We as humans have tremendous power of imagination and the biggest part of our pain is created in our heads, just by thinking the same old thoughts that cause us pain. And we feel we can not do anything about it. This is not completely true.

The main game-changer that can improve our mental health is our attitude towards the unwanted and unpleasant emotions. If we accept them as a natural part of our lives and our minds and bodies, we will approach them in a softer and more gentle manner next time. Like a mother that comforts her child when the child is hurting. We comfort our own souls with understanding and patience for our pain. We give the pain some space and we create a meaning in the narrative of our lives.

What makes us emotionally strong and resilient is not how energetic and motivated we can be when things are going well and when we feel good about ourselves. What makes us resilient is how we handle our hurts and soft places that get picked by ourselves or others, intentionally or unintentionally. What makes us strong is how we get through the pain and what we say to ourselves when we experience it. If we can see beyond the current emotional charge in our bodies, and remember how we got over the hurt many many times before, we will endure and go through it with more faith in ourselves. We will learn from our unpleasant feelings and use this knowledge to grow and build our lives in accordance with our inner guidance which is always on our side.

We should not forget that we are much more than our feelings and that we can expand our being far beyond the pain. Then the next step is not that difficult, you will spontaneously keep on going to the next experience, appreciating all of the colors of your life journey.

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