The Story of Negative Emotion

The Story of Negative Emotion

“I shouldn’t feel that way, because…”
“I know it’s not really a big deal.”
“I’m probably overreacting, but…”
“I should just be happy that…”
“I know that a lot of other people have it much worse than me.”

Pretty much all of my clients tell me some version of the above at some point during the work we do together. Go back and read those sentences again. Notice how it feels to say those things to yourself. Close your eyes, tune in to yourself and really notice what happens in your body when you repeat those words.

Pressure?
Resistance?
Guilt?
Shame?
Something else?

I’m fascinated when clients tell me they shouldn’t feel bad because other people feel worse. Have you ever heard anyone tell you to dial back your happiness because someone else feels better than you do? I’m guessing not. And you know why?

Here’s my take:

Most people think “negative” emotion is, well, negative. We don’t want to experience it ourselves and often, we’d rather not deal with it from other people.

“Negative” emotion seems scary. Heavy.

I invite you to consider the idea that your amazing human body was designed to metabolize all emotions. None of them will kill you – not even the “negative” ones.
It’s the resistance of emotion – trying to pretend you don’t feel what you actually feel – that’s exhausting and terrible and feels like imminent death. The emotion itself is nothing more than a chemical flowing through your body because of some sentence in your brain. There might be pressure in your chest. A buzzing around your stomach. Heat in your cheeks or water leaking from your face.

So what?

What if none of that was a problem? What if those physical responses were just your body’s way of sending information? Nothing more?
My experience is that about half of life is made up of things I’d rather not deal with (traffic, forgotten homework, socks on the floor, loss of a job or a loved one). What if that was the point? To experience negative emotion so that you can enjoy a rich, full life of contrast and broad emotional experiences?

If that’s the case – it is, by the way – then maybe you don’t need to add on the additional challenge of being irritated by your irritation, afraid of your fear or ashamed of your shame. Maybe? I think so.

What if you knew that you’re a human doing the best you can and whatever that looked like – at any moment –  was completely okay? Maybe even perfect? Maybe?

“My body was built to process emotion.”
“Nothing’s gone wrong here.”
“I’m a human in the world.”
“Sadness is part of a rich human experience.”
“It’s not a problem if I feel disappointed at times.”

Go back and read those sentences again. Notice how it feels to say those things to yourself. Close your eyes, tune in to yourself and really notice what happens in your body when you repeat those words.

Space?
Peace?
Compassion?
Acceptance?
Something else?

I get that this might be a new concept for you. I expect that you might disagree. And if you do, PLEASE comment below and tell me why. I’d love to hear from you.

 
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash
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