I remember when I felt like my life was falling apart, thinking that I lost control of everything. It felt like my situation was dire, and all of my circumstances in my life had total control over everything I did. I felt like I felt bad all the time. I’d desperately look for quick fixes and temporary distractions because I didn’t think that long-term happiness and fulfilling life was possible.
So, my main focus was on doing anything I could to bury bad emotions and find things that would make me feel good.
Does any of that sound familiar to you? Yes? Then this episode is for you.
When you stop labeling your emotions as “good” or “bad” then you’ll learn how to deal with negative emotions in a way that keeps you from wasting time trying to avoid “bad” ones.
Let’s get into it!
Not all “good” emotions are/feel good and vise versa
Usually, when I hear my coaching clients talk about feeling a “bad” emotion, it’s when their body is negatively affected by it. For example, when I feel anxiety, my throat closes up, and my body feels heavy, but my heart rate is up. I don’t like feeling like this, so it would be easy for me to think, “Anxiety makes me feel bad, so, therefore, it IS bad.”
But after decades of labeling emotions good or bad based on how they make your body feel, it’s going to be hard to convince yourself to get into motivation or inspiration. This usually means you have to move what’s blocking inspiration out of your way, which will require digging up some emotions that don’t feel good. And if we’ve spent a lot of time avoiding emotions that don’t feel good, we’re not going to want to spend time there.
Another example would be stepping into courage. I like to think of courage as intentional fear, despite the possibility of failure. The real definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one”.
So, if you think about it, the way your BODY feels while you’re in courage is bad, because it’s similar to the sensation of fear. However, most people would consider courage a positive emotion because it helps you take action on what’s important to you, despite the circumstances.
At the same time, complacent is a “bad” emotion, even though it feels good in the short term.
As you can see, it doesn’t help to label your emotions good or bad. We’re hard-wired always to stay away from “bad” and only to try and find “good.” This doesn’t work with emotions because sometimes you need both. I think of emotions as either positive or negative. Either they help me progress positively or keeps me stuck negatively. Obviously, not every emotion falls into this, but this idea helps accomplish goals and advance in your career.
Once you’ve stopped labeling your emotions as “good” or “bad”, it’ll be easier to learn how to deal with negative emotions you don’t want to experience, because you’ll learn how to not judge yourself for having negative emotions.
You can’t learn how to deal with negative emotions if you judge yourself.
Thanks to being human and not perfect, you’re going to experience negative emotions that will feel like gigantic boulders in your way from time to time. It’s just going to happen. So the sooner you accept that you can’t have the positive without the negative, the sooner you’ll see how to deal with negative emotions.
The only thing that judging yourself for having negative emotions will do is have you creating more negative emotions. Self-judgement keeps you stuck where you are for longer.
Not to mention, whether or not emotions are “good” or “bad” are subjective, so it doesn’t do any good to have rules around them.
Like, lust can be a positive emotion; it allows for intimacy with your partner and keeps you close. But lust can be VERY negative if yours is directed at children. That’s an extreme example, but you get my point. Determination is a fantastic emotion when it comes to your goals, but not so much if you bulldoze over everyone to get what you want.
Also, when you stop judging yourself for having negative emotions, you can step OUT of reacting emotionally and into objectivity. Like, when you’re focused on finding fulfilling work, but you haven’t had luck yet, it’s easy to feel discouraged. So, you can either process the discouragement, or judge yourself for feeling it. If you process it, you can move on looking at your actions objectively to see what went well, what didn’t, and what you’ll do differently.
But you can’t do any of this if you don’t allow the negative emotion to process.
Allowance is the key to learning how to deal with Negative Emotions
Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s never about the dishes” about fights with your partner? It means that there were underlying issues you guys didn’t talk about that exploded out after a fight started about something small, like dishes.
The same idea applies to learn how to deal with negative emotions. If there’s something that comes up for you that causes anxiety, anger, or any other negative emotion that you don’t want to feel, and you don’t deal with it, it will explode later when you least expect it. This happened a lot for me when I was in my corporate career that I hated. Something would happen at work that would cause me to feel angry. Instead of taking radical responsibility for my emotions and seeing what thoughts I had about the work situation, I’d go to lunch and try to bury my anger in food. Then a coworker would say something that would rub me the wrong way that I’d usually brush off, and I’d freak out on them.
If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t like it when things like this happen. And even though it feels like your emotions are totally outside of your control, it doesn’t mean it has to stay like that.
Allowing yourself to feel a negative emotion all the way through at the moment is the fastest way to overcome it. I learned how to deal with negative emotions by getting in touch with what your body is feeling. When you’re in anger, anxiety, etc., then go somewhere you can be alone and mentally bullet point what’s happening in your body.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Notice how your body looks: Like are your knuckles white? Shoulders slouched? How do your eyes look?
- Notice what sensations you feel where: How is your heart? Are your ears ringing? Can you taste anything? Are your hands shaking? Do you feel a crick in your neck?
The more things you can bullet point in your mind, the better, for lots of reasons. Doing this makes you aware of how you act when you’re in the middle of an emotion. Which is great, because most of us live in reaction rather than action, so the more you become aware of how you react on default, the more you’ll be able to switch into intentional action. Also, making this mental bullet point will keep your mind occupied, so you don’t spin out into shame or fear of the future.
The Big Picture
Labeling your emotions as “good” or “bad” is the fastest way to keep yourself spinning in negative emotions that you don’t want to feel. Whether it be by judging yourself for having them or trying to avoid them until they burst out of you uncontrollably, learning how to deal with negative emotions will be the key to creating and living the life you want to.
Like most Monica Chats episodes, this isn’t a one-and-done type of thing. This is a life long decision to do over and over again. While I know that sounds overwhelming to think about; I promise it’s like a skill, the more you do it, the better you get.
Focus on dealing with negative emotions one at a time, one day at a time. I promise that you can do this. And as you do, you’ll start to feel more self-empowered because you’re giving yourself the power to change how you feel.
If you want to see how this would work in your life and stop letting your unfulfilling career be why you experience so many negative emotions, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with three times that work well for you for a free one-on-one call with me.