There are times when you are happy. There are times when you are sad or angry. But most of the times, people believe that embracing the positive rather than the negative emotions is better for our health. Interestingly, many experts suggest the otherwise: we should embrace those negative feelings, too. Why would experts want us to hug our negative emotions?
The answer is quite simple. Human nature is made up from two major emotions namely positive emotions such as joyfulness and negative ones such as sorrow or sadness. They are completing each other. Without one another, human will never know the true feeling of sorrow or joy. Therefore, individuals should embrace not only positive feelings but also negative ones.
But why should we embrace the negative emotions when we can be more positive?
It is true that no human wants to feel sad, angry, jealous or any state of unhappy emotions because these feelings can dampen our motivation and willingness to live. This has been proved by a study on negative emotions that continuous negativity can dampen our enthusiasm for life. It can make us stop thinking and behaving rationally and only seeing situation from our own negative perspective.
However, the study mentioned that those negative effects only happen if we let negative emotions take deeper value of ourselves. On the contrary, negative feelings can ‘be useful’ when we do not let it take over our consciousness and choose a wise way to express them. Courtney Ackerman in Psychology Program cited that although negative feeling is unpleasant, it is necessary for a better healthy life. “Negative emotions serve evolutionary purposes, encouraging us to act in ways that boost our chances of survival and help us grow and develop as people,” Ackerman said. For example, negative feeling such as anger can help fight against problem; fear help protect us from danger; sadness is useful to connect us with those we love; or disgust can help us reject what is unhealthy.
Susan David, founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital of Harvard University Medical School, commented that it might sound paradoxical, but accepting our negative emotions can actually make us happier in the long run, while surpassing or turning away from difficult emotions is not healthy and helpful. David believed that “when emotions are pushed aside or ignored, they get stronger. Psychologists call this amplification.”
However, these findings do not mean you should always fall into negativity and let it be your friend. Negative feeling is needed but only in the right amount. You can feel sad about your stressful task, but never let it hamper your professionalism. During your grievance, it is crucial to identify the right actions to embrace your negative emotions to turn it into positive encouragement. How do we do that? There are three ways, David suggested.
#1 You need to label your emotion effectively
So often, people use black-and-white label to describe their feelings. Stress in the most common one. In fact, stress can be labelled into more category. For instance, stress of true overwhelm, stress of disappointment, or stress knowing you end up in a wrong job or relationship. “When we can label our emotions more accurately, it helps us understand the cause of those emotions and activates what’s called a ‘readiness potential’,” David said. And this potential readiness will help you see clearly on your true goals and make real concrete changes.
#2 You need to notice the emotion with compassion
Compassion allows you to create safe place within yourself. When you are not able to take risk or when you fail because you try, you are able to be more effective and accept it. Compassion is the state of liking and being kind to yourself no matter how world is cruel to you. It is associated with greater levels of effectiveness.
#3 You should notice the emotional story for what it is
Instead of saying “I am sad” or “I feel useless”, you can say something like “I’m noticing that I am feeling sad, I am noticing that I am feeling undermined, I am noticing that I urge to leave the room”, David suggested.
The changing of your words will allow you to bring the other parts of yourself. It will put you in charge rather than emotion. It is not about whether you have negative thoughts or emotions, but whether you get hooked into them when those thoughts start to drive your behaviours and your interactions.