March 6, 2022

How to Make Friends with our Negative Emotions.


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We are our own worst enemies when it comes to feeling blue.

Sensations, both mental and bodily, which bring us down are aided by our desperate crusade to erase them. Unheard, they shout more loudly until only their voice can be detected.

Everyone knows someone who craves any kind of attention. It doesn’t matter whether the focus is positive or negative; they just want to be seen and listened to. If they can dominate over everything else, so much the better, at least for them.

This is precisely how emotions of sadness, regret, anger, disappointment, fear, the list goes on, behave. When we’re happy, we welcome that feeling, we caress it, we love it, we make it welcome. Negative sensations want the same and feel hard done by when we reject them.

Sometimes we try to rid ourselves of negative emotions even when they’re helpful. The pain of deep anxiety is crippling, but a little worrying about the future increases motivation. Harnessed properly, it can propel us toward achieving our goals.

Depression is harrowing, and we should always seek help if we suffer from it. Its distant cousins, sadness and regret, can however be useful learning tools. The first lets us know we may need to change something in our lives; the second informs our behaviour going forward.

By pushing away these feelings, we risk losing the opportunity to discover our truths and progress in life. Embracing them can offer us a better present and more prosperous future. Treating them as study companions provides liberation from other problems.

This is all true when our negative emotions are caused by items within our control. In other words, useful worrying, and let’s face it, sensations we’d rather not have, always cause us concern. What then to do when we are preoccupied by things over which we have no influence?

Every day seems to bring bad news stories: inflation, war, threat of economic collapse, political tension, violence on our streets. If we allow ourselves, these, too, can cause such levels of worry that they destroy the rest of our lives.

Sagely, if we are worrying about anything we can do something about, let’s do it. If we can’t, stop. The problem is, that’s easier said than done.

The secret may lie in also accepting these emotions. After all, if we fight them, we will embolden them. Instead, allow them to just be.

We can do this through meditation, though this is just one possibility. Begin by closing your eyes, focus on your breath for a moment, then allow space for the emotion. Neither encourage nor discourage it.

Equally importantly, refrain from getting lost in the story of the sensation. Instead, label it. “This is sadness, regret, worry, disappointment, anger.”

Most importantly, tell yourself that there is nothing wrong with the way you are feeling. You are human and part of a sentient being’s existence is experiencing negative emotions. Sit in quiet acceptance of this fact for a brief time.

Explore where in the body this feeling is. Does it have a shape, a colour, perhaps you can even smell it? Just recognise and accept it.

Now see if you can soften the edges a little. Stop trying to get rid of the feeling. Simply seek to bring a little kindness and understanding to it.

Sit for a moment, allowing this gentleness to soothe the feeling. You can use your breath as an anchor to do this. Every time you breathe in, imagine you are bringing compassion into the emotion.

When you are ready, you can open your eyes. Has this made any difference? The emotion probably hasn’t vanished, but you may be surprised to find it isn’t as intense as before.

This practice is not a one-off, quick fix. As with all mindfulness activities, it needs to be performed consistently. If you do this, though, it can be a simple but powerfully effective way to prevent negative emotions from dominating your life.


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