It’s not always healthy to only look at the bright side!
Let’s face it… life is NOT always bright. It can be hard, and discouraging, and dispiriting and rather ominous at times.
This opposes the Age of Social Media where everyone is posting, “Always have a positive attitude” or “Have a positive outlook on life, all the time!”
Psychology is discovering however that doing so can make our negative emotions seem more negative! The reason is that purposefully ignoring our negative feelings only makes them more noticeable in our minds. For instance, if I say to you, “Do NOT think of a red-faced monkey!” what are you thinking of? A red faced monkey!
In addition, you may be losing a lot of valuable information your negative emotions are attempting to give you.
For example, when you are scared, your emotions are telling you, “be aware of what frightens you.” Seeing a dog walking up the sidewalk doesn’t mean you must cross the street to avoid it. It means admitting that dogs frighten you and you must decide to either avoid the dog or face your fears.
So what to do with negative feelings?
First let me point out that psychologists are still disagreeing on the origin of our feelings. They are still debating whether our emotions come from the world, or the way we construe the world.
However, significant discoveries are being made on how we can affect our negative emotions.
So here are three of them, posited by Dr. Konstantin Lukin of the Lukin Center for Psychotherapy.
Accepting our negative emotions can help us cope
Face it! Negative stuff is a part of life! But getting negative things off your chest is like lifting a huge weight off your chest. And we usually feel much better when we talk about how hard our day was with someone who loves us.
Emotions are neither good nor bad; positive nor negative
Instead, our feelings can be wonderful guides to what is really happening to us...deep inside. They can tell us what is right in our lives, and what is wrong!
Emotions also help us make sense of things. Feeling sad about leaving a job probably means that it was meaningful to you. Feeling anxious about a presentation probably means we care about how we’re perceived.
Emotions give information to people surrounding us.
If we are sad, our loved ones want to comfort us, and if we communicate guilt, it pulls for forgiveness.
And... our emotions cannot be controlled. We cannot say, “I will feel this way and not feel that way.” However, we can affect them!
So here are three ways from Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne.
Realize that our feelings are primarily coming from our beliefs. (This first one is the most important!)
At the core of our deepest emotions is our beliefs. In other words, our feelings don’t come willy nilly from out there somewhere, they come from what we are BELIEVING about what is out there, and our lives, and everything else!
For instance, we feel sad when we believe we have lost something, anger when we believe that an important goal is thwarted, and happy when we believe something good is coming our way.
By choosing to change our beliefs (and yes, dear reader, it is a choice we can make) you may not be able to change the situation. but you can change what you are saying about the situation. And that brings a change in what you are feeling about the situation... and ourselves!
(If you’re not sure what you believe, pay attention to your self-talk! It is the handle to your beliefs! By changing your self-talk, you can change your beliefs!) In other words, you are the one who is in charge.
Modify the situation.
We can avoid circumstances that trigger unwanted emotions. If you get angry when you’re rushed, choose to leave earlier. And if someone bugs you, figure out a way to avoid him. If you feel disappointed at not cooking the “Perfect” meal, find easier recipes to cook. You may not be able to construct the ideal soufflé, but you manage a pretty good frittata.
Change your response.
The final option is to change your responses.
If your heart is beating out a steady drumroll of unpleasant sensations, take a moment to stop, close your eyes. and take some deep breaths to calm yourself down.
Dear reader...while it may seem easier to only look at the bright side of life, the dark side of life is just as real.
And no one can be a ray of sunshine 24/7! None of us are like that!
But...paying attention to our emotions, positive or negative, can help us determine why we are feeling the way we do. When we do that, our feelings can become one of our best friends!
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available on line at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.