Emotions are tricky. Sometimes it’s difficult to embrace or even trust your feelings, it can be easier to simply ignore or deny them. There are no wrong feelings. There may be wrong actions in the sense of actions contrary to the rules of human communication. But the way you feel towards other people: loving, hating, et cetera, et cetera; there aren’t any wrong feelings. And so, to try and force one’s feelings to be other than what they are is absurd. And furthermore: dishonest. But you see: the idea that there are no wrong feelings is an immensely threatening one to people who are afraid to feel. This is one of the peculiar problems in the world: we are terrified of our feelings. We think that if we give them any scope and if we don’t immediately beat them down, they will lead us down into all kinds of chaotic and destructive actions.
But if for a change, we would allow our feelings and look upon their comings and goings as something as beautiful and necessary as changes in the weather, the going of night and day, and the four seasons, we would be at peace with ourselves.
Appreciating All Your Emotions
While keeping a positive outlook is good in theory, it’s also important to acknowledge that sometimes, negative things will happen to us. The point isn’t to avoid those emotions, but to handle them in a healthy way. “It is really important that as human beings we develop our capacity to deal with our thoughts and emotions in a way that isn’t a struggle, in a way that embraces them and is with them and is able to learn from them,” says David.
Here are 3 tips she shares to embrace all of your emotions:
1. Discover What Drives You
Ask yourself what motivates you every day, not necessarily because it brings you happiness, but because it’s something you care about. For example, if you’re an animal lover, volunteering a the SPCA might make you sad—but it will also provide your life with a greater sense of purpose.
2. Allow Room For Failure
When we are afraid to fail, we never learn from our mistakes. Says David, “I believe that it is stopping us as a society, including our children, from developing higher levels of well-being and resilience.”
3. Don’t Make Happiness a Hard-and-Fast Goal
When you put all of your energy into achieving happiness, you may neglect to notice when you’re actually happy. David suggests we instead focus on what’s important for us, and happiness will become “a byproduct of that focus.”
How To Embrace Your Negative Emotions
Embracing negative emotions is about opening up ourselves to accept them. It means — we can clearly see where they are signaling us; we can grasp the messages they are trying to convey; we are able to take reasonable, relevant action; and we can let them go after they have served us. We can learn to address our negative feelings in a positive way. There are proven helpful coping strategies to deal with them.
1. Become aware of the negative emotions rising
Once we learn to recognize their presence early on, we can take some proactive steps to let them play havoc with our mental and physical states. It’s like being warned about a storm coming and getting ourselves to a safe place before it can harm us at will.
2. Remodel the negative emotions as uneasy feelings
After we have changed our perspective of the negative emotions as feelings that are out to destroy us, we can handle them better. If we were to remodel them as merely uncomfortable feelings, we can deal with them better as we know they’ll pass away in time.
3. Accept their existence and importance, and feel them fully
To feel the emotions fully means to let them wash over us. If it’s a feeling of shame or embarrassment over a past mistake that just came by, we could let it make us feel completely ashamed. If we whisk it away, it will come back to upset us time and again. They have a reason to exist, so we have to let them be when they appear.
4. Separate the objective experience from the subjective interpretation
Our negative experiences come with memories of prejudice gathered from past events. When those mistakes happened, we interpreted them in a castigating way and stored them in our memories. It’s these interpretations that cause us more distress than the feelings themselves. Learning to set aside past judgments linked to negative emotions is a helpful way to deal with them.
5. Explore the experience with curiosity, and find out the reason for their presence
Curiosity is often an understated quality in adulthood. As children, we examine nearly everything with unbounded curiosity, but lose it as we grow. Once we start to explore the necessity of negative emotion to present itself, with childlike curiosity, we can find out its motive. And then fulfill their needs.
6. Be non-judgmental and mindful of the various ways it evokes changes in the body
Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help us deal with negative emotions. It makes us see them just as they are, without any past or present judgments. Knowing them, and releasing them is one thing mindfulness teaches us to do well.
7. Raise the threshold of discomfort and frustration tolerance, and make friends with them
In time, when we regularly practice dealing with the negative emotions in the ways above, we grow a natural strength against handling those in the future. Our threshold for becoming uncomfortable in their presence gets raised. We learn to be friends with them, however difficult they may seem to behave. After all, they are not going to be there for long unless we hang on to them.