3 Negative Emotions That Are Trying to Tell You Something
Most people use one of two strategies to cope with “negative” emotions:
- Fix it. The minute you start feeling anxious, for example, your negative and judgmental self-talk kicks in and you start arguing with yourself about why you shouldn’t feel anxious. And how if you were a little tougher you wouldn’t be stressed out all the time. As if berating yourself for feeling bad would help you feel better…
- Run away. Of course, it’s natural to want to avoid things that hurt. So we try things like distracting ourselves or numbing the pain with alcohol or food. The trouble is, no matter how fast you run, you will never outrun or escape your own mind, including your difficult emotions.
If you always treat painful emotions like a problem, eventually your brain starts to believe that they are.
Once you’ve taught your brain to view painful emotions as dangerous — because you’re always treating them like problems to be fixed or dangers to be escaped from — you’ve entered the realm of true emotional suffering. Now you start feeling bad about feeling bad, which is the source of chronic emotional pain.
Luckily, there’s a relatively simple way out of this mess…
You can start listening to your emotions instead of avoiding them.
This has two big benefits:
- You might learn something. Despite how it feels, painful emotions like anxiety and grief are not viruses out to get you. They’re a perfectly normal and adaptive part of human nature. Like lights on your car’s dashboard, they’re often trying to tell you something important.
- You will train your brain to stop being afraid of feeling bad. Once you get in the habit of listening to your painful emotions instead of trying to problem-solve them or run away from them, your brain stops believing that they’re dangerous. As a result, that second layer of painful feeling — feeling bad about feeling bad — starts to go away.
In the rest of this article, I’ll walk you through three painful emotions that most people try very hard to fix or avoid. But I’ll show you how you might approach and listen…