Why Negative Emotions are OK

I lost my wallet yesterday.  I still don’t have an idea where it could have been left.  I brought it to the gym, set it on a chair, retrieved it when I completed my workout, entered my cousin’s car to grab a coffee (as we always do after our Saturday workouts), went to the coffee shop, went to his house, and then noticed it was gone as we left his house.  Where could it have gone?

I started to feel sorry for myself.  Spewing out such negative phrases as, “why does this always happen to me” and “this doesn’t happen to anybody else”.

Image courtesy of unsplash.com

Image courtesy of unsplash.com

It amazes me.  For all the research I do, the learning I work to acquire about improving my mindset, it amazes me that I am still susceptible to moments of feeling out of control.  I still have clear moments of blaming others and focusing on things I cannot influence.

I know better.  I’ve consumed so much information on the subject that I should be immune, right?  Wrong.

We have to understand it is a process.  It is a lifelong process.  We are human beings.  We are always susceptible.

 

It’s science.

Evolutionary biology tells us that negative emotions are an important part of our survival instincts.  Our earliest ancestors, 5000 years ago, needed negative emotions to survive animal attacks, internal strife between tribesmen, amongst other things.

We still need them.

In an era where self help has grown in popularity, and acts as a great influence in training people to become better versions of themselves, the downside is in the neglect of the positive effects of our negative emotions.

Research has shown that attempts at suppressing negative emotions, like anger and sadness, can hurt our ability to overcome adversity.  This has been shown with addictions such as alcoholism, where conventional wisdom suggests that suppressing urges to drink develops good habits, this is dead wrong.  A stronger strategy is to accept those urges as part of the process, wherein we use self awareness to grow from the urges and build strength around them to become better.

I liken it to ligament damage in ones knee.  That knee ligament may never be as strong as it once was, but if we can strengthen the supporting tissue around the knee, then we can function on the knee as we did before the injury.   The key is in building the right supports.

I will always struggle to manage my negative emotions.  And I am ok with it.  In fact, I know that these negative emotions, used in the right way, will help to make me better.

The next time you get down on yourself, try to catch yourself in the act.  Remember that it is an opportunity to grow.  Use it to your advantage.

 

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