Stop Letting Your Negative Emotions Rule Your Life
Apply these 9 tips to turn your negative emotions into your superpower.
If there is one thing that I have learned over the years — negative feelings of anger, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, or any other negative feeling expressed toward another person really serves no purpose.
Well, unless your motive is to push that someone you love out of your life. These feelings are very effective at doing that, especially if that behavior continues repetitively over an extended period of time.
A person can only take so much. Unless you have a saint for a wife as I do.
I have had bouts of negativity throughout our marriage from time to time, many times without even realizing I am doing it. The negative feelings are usually triggered by stress or anxiety resulting from being overworked, lack of sleep, demands on my time, financial challenges, etc.
More often than not, these heightened negative emotions aren’t triggered by anything my wife has done, but she gets a front-row seat to my rants, whether she likes it or not.
Oddly enough, one of my biggest triggers lately has been when plans start appearing on my schedule during weekday evenings. A night or two during the week is fine. But when multiple evenings start disappearing, I start getting anxious and very guarded (and not very nice to be around).
This is likely because most of my day-time hours are scheduled for me — things like work meetings, project tasks with deadlines, client calls, etc. So, choosing what I do with the rest of my non-work hours has become more important to me, especially as I get older.
That recharge time is precious and helps me keep my sanity.
Once I let a few negative feelings in, it’s like a vampire that smells or tastes blood — I go into a feeding frenzy. Then, I usually spiral and go into a pit of despair and hopelessness, which takes me a bit of time to snap out of.
At that point, as my mind continues to pile on other negative feelings, and before I know it, it’s like one of the final scenes of the movie The Matrix Revolutions where tens of thousands of Sentinels have breached the entrance to the city of Zion.
Luckily, I too have an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) at my disposal (which I’m getting quicker on the draw to use) to kill the negative Sentinals that have, for whatever reason, breached my mind.
Once I become consciously aware of what is actually occurring, I pull out my EMP and charge it with positive feelings such as love, appreciation, gratitude, compassion, sympathy, mercy, forgiveness, gentleness, meekness, and kindness.
Once these higher feelings eventually dominate my mind, they have the same effect on negative emotions as an EMP does on electronics — they lose their power and die.
While this resolution seems to make sense and sounds straightforward, being only human, I continue to struggle with how I react to negative emotions to this day.
During the past 10+ years, I have spent countless hours reading books, watching videos, listening to CDs, podcasts, and anything else I could get my hands on related to the subject. I realized that I needed to find a way to learn how to better respond to negative emotions before my life got out of control with no return.
Not only did my wife and kids deserve better, but I also deserved better.
The struggle is real — but don’t discount the value of these negative emotions.
If you’re like me and struggle with this too, there is good news. According to the article “What are Negative Emotions and How to Control Them?” published on PositivePsychology.com, it’s completely normal to experience all emotions, including the negative ones.
While we can use the label negative, with what we know about emotions, it’s important to acknowledge that all emotions are completely normal to experience. They are a part of our ingrained DNA. What is more important, is understanding when and why negative emotions might arise, and developing positive behaviors to address them.
Instead of trying to find ways to suppress your negative emotions, try to detach from them and be consciously aware when these emotions start to heighten within you.
Depending on the emotion and the timing of your realization, it can be like trying to interrupt a volcanic eruption getting ready to explode into the atmosphere or to stop a giant tidal wave at its crest beginning to break.
Don’t lose hope, though. No matter the strength of these emotions, you can develop the discipline and self-mastery to objectively respond to them in a positive way instead of the results of a well-known phrase — “letting your emotions get the best of you.”
I am pretty notorious for living out that last part. However, it is critical that when you do blow a gasket, as I tend to, don’t beat yourself up. Do not let these emotions ruminate and create real damage that may be difficult to repair.
Real growth is acquired as we master our response to negative emotions.
Some more advice from the article gives those of us that struggle with negative emotions, something to set our sights on:
Remember — emotions are a low-level reaction so you get to decide how you respond to them and not let them hijack your behavior.
Is eliminating negative emotions the answer?
This question is asked in the article — “Do We Want to Overcome and Stop Negative Emotions Altogether?” Many of us who have a hard time controlling our negative emotions think the only answer is to eliminate them.
Quite the contrary is true, actually.
It’s normal for us to want to move away from emotions that make us feel bad. As an evolutionary response, negative emotions in the modern world are not really an indication of a severe threat against us, but overcoming and stopping them altogether would be hugely detrimental to us.
Negative emotions are an incredibly normal, healthy and helpful part of life. I think it’s really important not to fall into the ‘happiness trap’ of believing that these emotions are a sign of weakness or low emotional intelligence. I know from personal experience that trying to hide away from negative emotions, can lead to further emotional pain.
As a human being, you will experience a full range of emotions throughout your lifetime in response to rapidly changing situations. No emotion is without purpose. It’s when we begin to further explore and understand the purpose behind each emotion, that we learn new ways to respond which supports our emotional growth and sense of well-being.
These negative emotions come about for a reason — they may not indicate a real threat against us in the “modern world.” Still, if ignored, they can cause long-term effects that could develop into severe anxiety, panic attacks, or health problems if suppressed or ignored for too long.
Try this approach to redirect your negative emotions for positive purposes.
Below are some great tips I found in the article to redirect negative emotions positively.
Sims (2017) explored ways to proactively process and acknowledge negative emotions and came up with the acronym TEARS of HOPE to help coach and guide individuals. Here’s what it stands for:
#1. T = Teach and learn
This is the process of listening to what your body is trying to teach you through the presentation of negative emotions, and learn what they mean. It’s building your own personal knowledge of the way you respond to emotional states, interpreting the signals your body is sending you, and acknowledging that they serve a purpose.
Everyone experiences negative emotions differently — the key is to learn what they mean specifically in your case and how you can harness them for your benefit.
#2. E = Express and enable
Negative emotions encourage us to express them. They are very actionable emotions. The express and enable part of the acronym encourages you to explore this with openness and curiosity. It’s about increasing your acceptance of your natural instincts and enabling them to be present without resentment.
Let your negative emotions flow freely without suppression and realize that it's alright for them to surface naturally. They are a part of who you are as a human and what makes you unique. Embrace it and own it.
#3. A = Accept and befriend
This follows on nicely from express and enable. It’s about befriending yourself and the way you are as a human. Focus on increasing your acceptance with positive affirmations to bring your sphere of negative emotions into a space of acceptance.
Accept yourself for who you are and realize and embrace that you are a work in progress, which is ok. Your emotions are your real strengths — both positive and negative.
#4. R = Re-appraise and re-frame
Once you’ve begun to accept that this is a natural part of who you are, you can begin to focus on reframing the situation and how you react. Just because a negative emotion has arisen, doesn’t mean you have to react in ways that are detrimental to you and those around you.
Accepting negative emotions isn’t about accepting or excusing poor behaviors, it’s about creating awareness for the self and others to create positive reactions.
Mastering how you react to your negative emotions is vital to achieving control and discipline to channel these emotions to influence your life positively.
#5. S = Social support
Knowing that negative emotions are present in all of us, and in pretty much the same way, can be a fantastic source of compassion and empathy to those around us. It’s how we process our emotions that differ, so seeing someone in the throws of anger, knowing that they are just handling a perceived threat can really encourage us to approach them with compassion, rather than anger ourselves.
Everyone has their own demons to deal with — the more we demonstrate understanding and compassion towards others, they will return that mercy to us as we falter.
#6. H = Hedonic well-being and happiness
This is the process of grouping positive experiences with negative. Because we more readily recall negative experiences, it can be useful for us to group them with positive experiences so we don’t fall into a ruminating trap. This way, we can focus more of our energy on recalling the positive experiences.
When you experience a negative emotion, learn how to group it with positive experiences or behaviors. The next time the negative emotion is recalled, the positive feeling outshines and prevents spiraling.
#7. O = Observe and attend
Take the time to really observe your reactions without ignoring them, repressing them, or over-exaggerating them. Use mindfulness to bring your focus to your mind and body and what a particular emotion is creating within you. Attend to these reactions without judgment.
Consciously detaching from normal negative emotional reactions and accepting them as unique attributes of your DNA is vital to understanding how to benefit your well-being.
#8. P = Physiology and behavioral changes
Just as you observe your emotional and mental responses, observe your physiological reactions too. Bring your focus to your breath, your heart rate and sense out the changes in your physiology that a negative emotion may have caused. Again, attend to these changes without judgment.
Pay attention and listen to the reactions of your body when negative emotions begin to present themselves. Take note of your breathing and change if needed. These responses speak volumes on best how to discover benefits.
#9. E = Eudaimonia
This might not be a word you are familiar with, but it’s well worth adding to your vocabulary. Eudaimonia is a Greek word which basically refers to having a good spirit. It means you have found a state of being that is happy, healthy and prosperous, and you have learned to engage in actions that result in your overall well-being. It means you’re actively striving towards a sense of authenticity in all you do.
I love the last sentence — the keywords here are that we are “actively striving towards a sense of authenticity in all you do.” You can live a much more fulfilling life of well-being.
You not only benefit from this shift – those you spend time with will notice and appreciate your efforts to be more positive.
One thing that I believe is at the root of why I constantly struggle with this is not feeling worthy. That reason may be the leader of your demons too. Continue to work on this day-in and day-out, and eventually, you will feel worthy of a life you deserve.
Negative emotions can be your superpower if you learn to harness them for positive outcomes consciously. It takes diligent awareness and discipline to master this. Believe me, I know it’s not easy. But you owe it to yourself, your health, your well-being, and the ones you love to put some real work into this.