the upsides to negative emotions and the power of acknowledging them
Yes, you read the title right, there’s an upside to negative emotions.
This may be surprising because avoiding them appears to be the most rational thing to do. Feelings such as disappointment, anger, and frustration can all lead to stress, so they are often labelled as ‘unhealthy’. But contrary to popular belief, negative emotions, no matter how uncomfortable they are to deal with, can do us good.
Not All Black and White
In a Ted Talk, psychologist Susan David, Ph.D., shares, “normal, natural emotions are now seen as good or bad. And being positive has become a new form of moral correctness.” The reality is, the diversity of feelings that we experience are not necessarily good or bad, rather, they are indications that help us respond to the events that create them.
There can be pleasant emotions or ones that make us feel uncomfortable—the key is knowing how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, instead of suppressing them simply because of how they make us feel.
She adds, “Research on emotional suppression shows that when emotions are pushed aside or ignored, they get stronger. Psychologists call this amplification. Like that delicious chocolate cake in the refrigerator—the more you try to ignore it… the greater its hold on you.”
Part of The Human Experience
As humans, we can experience a spectrum of emotions—happy, sad, excited, anxious and a whole lot more. When we push aside normal emotions to put up appearances and embrace false positivity, we deprive ourselves the opportunity to develop the skills to deal with life as it is.
We can look at emotions as tools, our body’s natural way of telling us how to survive, make decisions, understand people and even avoid danger.
Greater Emotional Intelligence
Knowing what pushes our buttons help us master our own emotions. Theorists believe that emotions such as fear, sadness, or anger serve the purpose of conveying responses to stimulate corrective action.
People who are emotionally intelligent have the ability to recognize their feelings and their influence on their actions, which allow them to explore the many adaptive ways to react given any type of situation. By paying attention to the signals of our self-awareness, we too can become “emotionally smart”.
Acknowledging the presence of negative emotions teaches us how and why we feel the way we feel. It improves our level of self-awareness, which is vital for empathy and self-will. Knowing ourselves gives us an accurate view of our own strengths and weaknesses, which forms the foundation for personal growth and success.
Living Life Meaningfully
Facing all the realities of life takes courage and it is through embracing all the ups and downs that come with it that we hone our strength.
Back to Susan David’s talk about the gift and power of emotional courage, she said that many people come to her and say things like, “I don’t want to try because I don’t want to feel disappointed.” or, “I just want this feeling to go away.”, but as she eloquently put, “I understand. But you have dead people’s goals.”
We don’t get to savour the positive side of life without experiencing life’s inconveniences and discomforts. As she continues, “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”
About the Author:
Samantha is an entrepreneur, healthy lifestyle advocate and co-founder of Australia’s first specialty wellness travel company Health and Fitness Travel. She has an unbridled enthusiasm for all things travel, health and fitness and is committed to providing healthy holidays options that not only enhance but change lives. Samantha’s goal is to bring wellness tourism into mainstream acceptance in Australia and showcase that taking care of yourself can be both a very enjoyable and rewarding experience.
1.The gift and power of emotional courage , Susan David , TEDWomen 2017 https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage/transcript?language=en#t-538927
2.How Emotionally Intelligent People Use Negative Emotions to Their Advantage, GoodTherapy.org. , https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-emotionally-intelligent-people-use-negative-emotions-to-their-advantage-0614184