Are you afraid of being unhappy, sad and depressed?
Do you resist shame, guilt or anger?
Have you tried stopping yourself from feeling anxious, insecure or grief?
The biggest lesson I learn from my experience with depression is the more I resisted my negative emotions, the more I suffered. The more I allowed my feelings to be, the easier it is to let them go. It’s important to feel and accept all emotions, even if they are perceived as negative.
Negative emotions aren’t bad. In fact:
Negative emotions don’t harm you. It’s your resistance that does.
Depression doesn’t kill. It’s the resistance to pain that kills. Depressed people don’t want to die. They just want their emotional struggle to end. What they don’t know is their resistance that’s causing the pain and suffering to persist. Resistance such as avoidance, suppression, distraction, and denial, provides momentary comfort. But it doesn’t dissolve your negative emotions or end your suffering.
The best way to heal your emotions is to embrace them.
Here’s how to deal with negative emotions and embrace them.
1. Stop seeing your negative emotions as threats.
Emotions are just emotions. There’s actually nothing negative or positive about them. But we group emotions that we like to experience as “positive” and those that we don’t like to experience as “negative”.
And that’s the problem. We see negative emotions as threats to our survival. We are afraid if we allowed those bad feelings to be here, our good feelings will be gone. So we hold onto to the positive ones and resist the negative ones.
Don’t judge your emotions.
However, positive emotions are just like negative emotions. They come and go, you can’t hold onto them forever. So welcome all your emotions. Don’t judge them. Don’t think one is better than the other.
2. Observe your emotions.
Whenever you have a strong emotion about something or someone, don’t react to it. Don’t justify why you should or shouldn’t feel this emotion. Because if you do, you are letting your emotion control you.
Instead, close your eyes and let it be here for a moment. Observe it – feel your body sensation.
Just feel the feelings and breathe.
I find this extremely helpful for anxiety, fear, and anger. For anxiety and fear, we tend to worry too much about the future. It could be an upcoming deadline, an event you drag going, or a major decision you have to make. And for anger, we tend to bring ourselves back to the past. We keep looping stories about how unfair we were treated in our head.
Rather than being stuck in the future or the past, feeling and observing your emotions help you get centered. It brings you back to the present. Once the voices and pictures in your head quiet down, what left is just the bodily sensation. And the bodily sensation isn’t as unpleasant as the images our mind conjure up.
3. Release your emotions.
Some people would rather underperform than to fail and feel shame. Some develop eating addiction to prevent themselves from feeling hurt. And some get depressed when they deny their grief.
Find a safe place to vent your emotion if you need to, but never suppress it. Avoiding your feelings, in the long run, is unhealthy. It hurts relationships and it leads to anxiety, depression, and addiction.
The better way to deal with emotions is to let them go.
Stop the loop. Ask your ego, “You have told me this story before. Is there any new information for me?” Write it down to get it out of your head and your system. Release your bodily sensation, emotions, and thoughts. Let them all go.
4. Welcome your emotions again whenever they resurface.
It usually takes a few releases to fully let go of your emotions. Don’t get frustrated with your progress. Keep welcoming it and letting it go.
Imagine picking up a pen and dropping it on the floor. Releasing your emotions feel like this. You keep picking up the pen and drop it on the floor until there is no more pen to be picked or until you are too tired of picking up the pen. Whenever you experience the negative emotions again, simply drop it. You will reach a point where holding onto your emotion is unnecessary any more.
Acceptance is neither rejecting your emotions or holding onto them.
People are afraid to accept their negative emotions because they are afraid that once they experience the pain, it will never go away. But embracing your emotions doesn’t mean holding onto them. It means accepting that emotions are fluid and allowing them to come and go as they like.
Pain and suffering only cling to us when we deny our true emotions or hold onto them too tightly.
5. Use your energy somewhere else.
Emotions are energy. If you can’t let go of your negative emotion, use it on somewhere else.
Understand the purpose of the emotions. Anger and envy could be a positive source of energy and motivation for personal development. A little anxiety and pessimism get you prepared for unforeseen circumstances. Guilt can lead to right actions that adhere to your morals. Grief can be turned into gratitude for those who are still alive.
It all depends on how you use your negative emotions.
The easiest way to use your negative emotion is to walk it off or run. Take a break and move. When you aren’t able to express your emotional energy, they remain trapped in your body. So use your emotional energy to do something positive. Express it without injuring other people or yourself.
6. Identify the message that your emotions are trying to tell you.
In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle mentions that emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind. If there’s a conflict between thoughts and emotion, the thought will be the lie and the emotion will be the truth.
That is my direct experience when I had depression last year. I thought that I was okay when I was left jobless. I thought I could find another job. But emotionally I’m not well. I was feeling depressed and hopeless.
My depression experience turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It made me realized that I was on a wrong career path. The truth is I wanted to be a full-time writer, but I was too afraid to do so. Depression is here to tell me I needed to follow my heart and trust my instinct.
So what is your negative emotion trying to tell you?
Instead of tuning out your negative emotions, tune in.
- What trigger this emotion?
- What actions can you take?
- What is the truth?
When you are angry with someone, are you reflecting a part of you that you don’t like or resist? When you feel overwhelmed with work, are you being busy unnecessarily or are you really doing something that is significant to you? Perhaps you need support from your co-workers or a break?
Be grateful for negative emotions. They often try to tell you something important. Take time to examine the clues they leave you!
7. Release your positive emotions too! Balance is key.
Most people only embrace the positive emotions, but the truth is positive emotions aren’t that different from negative emotions. They are just more pleasant and make you feel lighter than negative emotions.
For example, excitement is very similar to anxiety. Both provide you with images and thoughts about the future. Both keep you trapped in the future and away from the present. When indulge, both can prevent you from taking necessary action.
Your anticipation about the future may hold you back from working towards your goals now. You may want to reach your goals so badly that you aren’t open to changes and new opportunities along the way. It may eventually make you disappointed when things don’t work out like the way you fantasize them to be.
Find the peaceful balance between the negative and positive emotions.
I had depression previously because I brought myself too high. I was over-optimistic about working in the animation industry that when it didn’t turn out the way I expected, I fall greatly. If I hadn’t been that blinded by my positive emotions, I would have planned for failure.
So let go of your positive emotions too. Don’t hold on to them. Holding onto them just signifies your lack of these positive emotions.
Featured Photo Credit: heaven scent / lauren rushing