Why negative emotions are the key to unlocking happiness

by | Mar 18, 2022

In the self-care literature there’s a lot (A LOT!) of focus on positive mindset, being positive and looking positively at life.  On the surface this makes total sense; I mean why wouldn’t you want to have a gloriously happy and upbeat life?  Yet in reality, in our human experience, life isn’t and cannot be 24/7 happy la-la land.  We are setting ourselves up for a big disappointment, a stack of unnecessary pressure and even greater self-critique if we aim to aspire to this nonsense.

Sadly, (excuse the pun!) negative emotions in many Western cultures get a really bad rap, so we’re conditioned from an early age to suppress them, pass them off, and feel shamed into displaying them.  Remember your parents telling you to ‘Stop crying like a baby’ when you felt hurt or sad.  Or feeling like you had to suppress your anger at work for fear of what people might think of you.  I was once told by my ex-husband to ‘Get over it and stop being so bloody miserable’ when I was grieving over my friend’s death (he’s an ex for a reason, right?!).  And I bet you can think of other examples from personal experience. 

Expressing our negative emotions in society is not deemed acceptable, is seen as weak, or worse still as if you’re unstable and have something mentally wrong with you.  It’s no wonder we control them, suppress them, deny ourselves the experience of them.  It’s no wonder we say ‘I shouldn’t be angry, but …’  Yet, by stopping the flow of all our emotions we do ourselves a dis-service, an injustice.  We deny and dampen who we truly, fully are. 

If we are gifted by nature, God, Source (or whatever your belief) an ability to express and experience a whole spectrum of emotions, who are we, as human beings, to say that one emotion is ‘better’ than another.  Who are we to pass judgement?  Which raises the bigger question, then, of why would we have all these emotions available to us, if not to benefit us?  Every other element of our human essence and physicality is there for a good reason.

My belief and experience is that in our skewed focus on the feel-good emotions, we are missing a huge opportunity for our deepest, greatest personal growth and expansion.  As much as it isn’t comfortable or pleasant to experience them, our so-called negative emotions offer us the greatest gift of all.  

Life is all about balance, right?! Our lives are a constant flow of dualities.  Hot – cold.  Calm – stress.  Sleep – awake. Happy – sad.  Alone – Connected.  Energized – tired. So, to be available for what we deem good, we have to appreciate and be open to the bad.  Without the dark there would be no light.  We have to honour it all.

Self-care is about embracing every facet of who we are and be. Real, deep, healing self-care isn’t external, although we most often do self-care from an external place; it comes from within us and it’s about appreciating ourselves, tuning in to ourselves, honouring ourselves. Self care starts from the inside, not the outside-in. And this is why our emotions are such powerful tools for personal growth and deep fulfilment.

If we suppress our emotions or feelings, they’ll just come back to bite us, like a river waiting to burst its banks after heavy rainfall. The negative energy will manifest as pain, dis-ease. 

It will literally eat us up and consume us.  Even denying or suppressing positive emotions (usually through fear of what others might think), we deny the light within ourselves which fuels low self-esteem and self-worth. 

Yet when we fully honour our emotions, no matter where on the spectrum they lie, we process, appreciate and learn from them.  Our resilience, health and inner confidence bloom, we feel aligned and live true to ourselves, unlocking an even greater, more expansive version of ourselves than before.

Rumi, the Persian poet and Sufi master, conveys it perfectly and so elegantly in his poem, The Guest House …

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

 

And wise guides, they are!  Calling us to do the work in that very moment, to grow, to expand.  Nudging us to listen, to honour our life experience and expand our sense of self continually.  

Anger teaches us to let go, release, to forgive, to calm.  

Frustration, overwhelm and resentment call us to bring our power back within, to stop for a moment and listen to and honour our own needs, to serve ourselves well. 

Bitterness signals an opportunity to cultivate more compassion, be more loving, forgiving, or grateful. 

Denial presents an opportunity to be more truthful, to find courage, to shine our light and express ourselves more fully. 

Worry or doubt ask us to trust, to believe in ourselves and the Universe, to be present and appreciate the now. 

Guilt and unworthiness show us the need to cultivate love and kindness towards ourselves, to let go of fear, blame and shame, to see and appreciate all the greatness within us. 

Grief and loss call us to be patient with ourselves, to be accepting, appreciative, to answer our souls calling and find inner peace.  

Jealousy serves to ignite our inner confidence and to notice what we feel we’re missing from life and then go and get it! 

Whatever so-say ‘negative’ emotion we feel, THAT is our work.  So, it’s not a negative, it’s an opportunity.

So notice and tune into everything you feel without judgement, but with curiosity.  Ask, ‘What is this emotion I am experiencing and what is it calling me to do or be?’  There’s a lesson waiting for you in every emotion you feel because every one of us is being called to enjoy the deepest level of joy and fulfilment we can – And our emotions hold the key to unlocking that place.

At the end of the day, life isn’t about being full of regrets or ‘if only’s’, it’s about being the fullest version of ourselves, no matter how scary that might feel.  And self-sabotage doesn’t deserve the energy or space in your world of dreams, my friend.

With love,

Jo x

 

P.s. Of course I’d be delighted to support you to overcome your inner Imposter and self-sabotaging behaviour so you can feel empowered from within … if you want to know more, book in a in a free Discovery Call and we can chat more.