28 April 2016, by Somesh Valentino Curti
Do you get stuck in negative thinking, are you sometimes excessively self-critical or do you avoid negative feelings at all costs? Here are some effective strategies for dealing with negative emotions in a healthy manner.
“I am not good enough”
“I am wrong”
“I am a failure”
“I am incapable”
“I am worthless”
These are some of the negative judgments that we might have during our lifetime. These judgments are painful and our first reaction is then to hide from them, reject them or cover them up.
We do that mostly by investing time and energy in achieving goals, possessing things or getting recognition and approval from others, hoping to feel better about ourselves. The outcome of this approach is mostly a temporary and transitory sense of satisfaction, but never a true stable position founded on happiness. Basically, it doesn’t work!
But then, what do we need to know and which actions do we need to take in order to deal with negative judgments?
The main trap
The main trap in dealing with negative judgements is that the more we try to get rid of negative judgments and feelings, the more they seem to stick to us.
“Things grow where attention goes,” and avoidance is a form of attention. The more we try to avoid or get rid of negative feelings, the more evident they will become.
As a result, happiness seems to drift further and further away from us. It’s an external goal that we are never really able to achieve.
Negative judgements are not an enemy
Negative judgments are unpleasant and sometimes very painful, but we need to understand that they are not an enemy. They are just the symptom of a suffering that’s already inside of us, caused by past painful experiences.
Here two examples from my clients:
“My father was not present or supportive at all. I suffered a lot for it and I started to think that I was the cause of it, that there was something wrong with me.” Lisa, 28, Spain.
“When I was young my mother was intruding and disconfirming my choices, making me feel incapable to be strong enough to face the world by myself.” Marco, 36, Italy.
Accepting feelings is the key for moving towards a more open, wider and therefore more stable position in life. Emotions are on a continuum from positive to negative: The more we are open to feel the negative side when it arises, the more we can enjoy the positive side.
Say YES to NO
The best way to approach our suffering and judgments is a genuine willingness to be open emotionally to them. If we start to be true with what we really feel, we end up being happy. Easy to say maybe, but love is the only way to deal with the negative.
Love is an open YES, capable to contain also the NO. Judgements and hurts need our loving attention as much as other feelings. Through opening ourselves as much as we can, we integrate them back into our system.
This process makes available a huge amount of energy, which is then used to produce feelings of completeness, contentment, and it heals our past wounds.
In this way, we discover within ourselves a new source of goodness, without craving for positive feelings from the outside world. YES deeply heals the original unfulfilled needs at the base of our suffering.
Indulging in the negative
Approaching negative feelings and judgments without rejecting them doesn’t mean indulging in them. Indulging means, on a psychological level, keeping the mind busy with the negative judgements as an extreme attempt to control and restrict pain.
On an emotional level, it means developing an attachment to negative feelings, sitting with them in a dark corner feeling somehow safe and protected.
Our negative feelings need our care and love, exactly like crying children need good but balanced attention from the parents. Too little attention makes the suffering deeper, while too much attention creates insecurity and fear.
The last frontier
Ultimately, to be open to our negativity means to be open and vulnerable to the two main gut feelings that are behind almost any bad experience we have or have had in our life: Pain and Anger.
In fact, we experience great fear to get close to these feelings. To overcome the fear is the most important step to come fully alive emotionally and being available to happiness.
Pain and anger are the frontier of our worst nightmares, but we often ignore that if we cross that frontier, we end up in the valley of love and reach the peak of self-esteem!
Here a couple of exercises that can help you to meet your painful feelings and anger in a positive way:
› Opening up to pain
Ex. 1: Lie down on your back, put your feet on the ground and close your eyes. Put your hands where you feel your emotional pain or where there are tensions in your body and breathe deeply and gently through the mouth.
Don’t use the breath to repress feelings or to push them out. Just breath through them like a warm wind blows through the grass. If spontaneous crying arises, let it be, keep the position and breathe through your pain until you feel that the expression is complete for the moment.
You will experience a deep sense of liberation and release. If fear comes, breathe also through that, don’t follow or repress it, it will dissolve.
› Expressing anger
Ex. 2: The three basic rules to express anger are: Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt others and don’t break any objects.
When we break these rules the anger becomes destructive and the result is that it remains with us or will get even bigger and we give our power away. If we respect the rules, the anger is released which will increase our self-confidence.
Put a pillow on the floor in front of the bed and one pillow on the mattress. Beat the pillow rhythmically with both fists or with one arm at a time for about 10 minutes. Increase the rhythm until you are exhausted.
Use music that encourages the expression of anger. If you feel stuck, imagine situations or people who have hurt you or disrespected you in the past. Rest for five minutes in silence.
To end this article I would like to share this beautiful quote by Jeff Foster with you, which invites us to recognise the intelligence behind all forms of expression of our being. This is the source that we should always honour and recognise, because happiness comes by itself:
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“Breathe into uncomfortable sensations; give them dignity. Honour them rather than closing off to them, starving them of warmth. On the in-breath, imagine or feel your breath moving into the neglected and tender area, infusing it with life and love. Fill the uncomfortable area in your body with oxygen, warmth and dignity. Don’t try to ‘heal’ the sensations, or even ‘let go’ of them. They want to be met, honoured, included in the present scene. Assume that even discomfort holds intelligence; that it’s not ‘against’ you. Know that true joy is not the absence or opposite of sadness or pain, but the willingness to embrace it all.”