What should I do with negative emotions?
There are aspects of our humanity that are important to develop. These include the physical, mental, social, and spiritual aspects. Our emotional world is equally important.
Our emotions can also be difficult to engage with and experience. People often learn in life that negative emotions are bad, should be shut down, and definitely not talked about. When our emotional world goes unattended however it can lead to problems like depression, anxiety, addiction, conflict in relationships, or an unfulfilled life.
In his book Voice of the Heart, Chip Dodd writes that “each feeling (emotion) has its own specific purpose in helping us live life fully.” How can this be? After all, no one ever likes to feel sadness, fear, or guilt for example. Those are painful and unpleasant. We often don’t want anyone to see us feeling strongly in these ways.
Dodd identifies 8 core feelings and why they are so important for us to embrace and talk about:
- Hurt lets you know you need healing and starts the process.
- Loneliness moves us to connection with others.
- Sadness reveals what we truly value and honor in life.
- Anger shows our care and passion for life, or when we have been offended.
- Fear awakens us to danger and brings about wisdom.
- Shame maintains humility and mercy.
- Guilt brings forgiveness and repentance.
- Gladness proves hopes and longings to be true and that we are alive!
Don’t get me wrong. Seven of those eight feelings really are painful and unpleasant. You may have seen examples of unhealthy, toxic expressions of these feelings which simply increases the pain. However, to willingly embrace, be honest with yourself and others, and act on them in healthy ways can lead to greater emotional health and a full life.
Is exploring your emotional world new or difficult for you? Maybe you feel stuck with a particular painful emotion. First, remind yourself that your emotion is legitimate and acceptable. We’d also invite you to consider walking through the pain and difficulty with someone else—someone that you can trust has your best interest at heart.
And, counseling can be a great step in acting on your emotions and help you pursue a full life. If that is where you are, we’d love to hear from you.
By Spencer Griffin