[Podcast 8] The purpose of negative emotions
Obviously, we want to feel all the good feelings. But what is the purpose of negative emotions? Where do they come from? What to do about them, and what not to do because it backfires.
What do feelings have to do with real life? They are the reason we want anything. Or do anything. They decide about our entire experience of being alive! You may say: Don’t we have bigger things to focus on and to learn about? Money, relationships, spirituality?
When you want to make more money, why is it? It’s because you want to feel secure, safe, accomplished, acknowledged, able to buy things, and empowered. All of these are feelings. When you are in conflict with someone, why do you want to repair that relationship? It’s because you feel hurt, misunderstood, rejected, resentful, maybe entitled to better treatment – those feelings do not feel good. And you want to feel peace, respect, love, harmony. Even when the biggest struggle seems to be only in your mind. It’s a problem because of the feelings. Maybe you feel conflicted, alone, confused, bored, lost, maybe you feel shame. All of them are feelings and you know things are right when you feel: clear, right in your own skin, self-acceptance, you feel open and grounded.
In those three examples, feelings are what create the difference. Yes, things may change outside of you but the quality of the entire experience depends on how you feel. What feelings have to do with daily life? They are equally important in small situations in daily life. Just recently I had a talk with a landscaper next door. In this 10 min conversation we managed to talk about feelings. I wasn’t the one who started. Because I was aware how my negative feelings can impact the result I want to create – I was able to manage my mind within 3 minutes.
Part 1 Where do Feelings come from In episode 5 I talked about the model we use to overcome limiting beliefs and change our life for the better. Feelings are a part of it. They come from our thinking. But it is normal, this is what we always do: we say that we feel a certain way because of what someone did or said, because of what’s going on, because of everything external. That’s likely going to continue in all daily conversations.
But when we want to be aware and direct our experience and understand ourselves why we do what we do, We need to look at what we are thinking that leads to certain feelings. I love this example: If you don’t love yourself, you will interpret others actions or words as not loving. But If you love, like and respect yourself – you will have no issue with what someone did or said, being at the healthiest place, it will be neutral to you. In fact you may not even notice.
If we can keep attributing our emotions completely to the circumstances and other people, government or the weather, we will delegate responsibility for our emotions, we will be an effect of the world around us. And this can lead us to blaming. and disempowerment. we will keep waiting for circumstances or others to change so we can feel better. But they don’t.
There is a space between what other people do and our feelings. This is a space for making their actions mean something. And each of us will make it mean something else. Let’s take apart this situation. I’m going to put it into the mental model, because every situation has 5 elements. Circumstances, Thoughts, Feelings, Action, Result.
EXAMPLE. I talked to a woman who said was mad because….. her husband had work events as a part of his job, while she was staying home with kids. Let’s be more precise. This woman thought she was mad because her husband participated in the events. What is really the cause of her feeling mad? Was it her husband attending networking events? Husband attending networking events is a neutral fact, until she had a thought about it. We discovered her real thought was “he is having fun, he doesn’t care about us” That Thought made her Feeling mad. This is important to know because that feeling affected how she acted towards him, and herself. As you can guess she didn’t act lovingly towards him. She expressed that madness, maybe also jealousy, she told him you don’t care. As a result she made sure he didn’t have fun, she certainly didn’t, and she acted towards him like she didn’t care. Her emotion didn’t come from him being away, but from how she thought about it. Not everyone would agree with her. Not every wife would have the same reaction.
Another person could think: I’m glad I’m home to put kids to bed, I’m glad I have more time for myself. I’m glad he has this job, he is so good in this role. So when you think about your emotions and where they come from, make sure you separate facts from thoughts. To do it, describe the situation factually, without opinions and adjectives.
Here is another real-life example: My friend told me a story where she thought the fact was “That woman attacked me.” We discovered it is a thought. Because when she described the moment as a fact, as other people would observe it from the outside. It went like this: She came close to me at the bar and said “How are you doing? It’s horrible what happened to you 5 years ago.” My friend interpreted it as an attack because of that person’s way of being loud, pushy and b/c of the memories of how she hurt her years ago. But in that moment the fact was she asked a questions (being herself) When my friend separated the thoughts from the facts she said: oh wow, it’s possible she actually cared. “It’s possible she cared” was a thought. “she attacked me” was also a thought One situation, two thoughts, two, so dramatically different feelings. When you know… you apply it in life.
EXAMPLE: In the situation with the landscaper It was strange to be aware of what’s going on with my feelings from the moment I noticed the trash on our side and being aware that what I feel will affect the result of this conversation. You know how you clean up your yard and the next day, they do landscaping next door and blow all the leaves on your place? SO I was addressing that. And in the 10 min conversation, he and I talked about lots of feelings. F: defensive, attacked, attacking, frustrated, willing, respectful. From the moment I saw the trash on our side. Through the few min when I found him I went from mad to decisive and cooperative. When I was about 10 yards from him I knew I needed to take care of my feelings before my actions (meaning speaking) because it will influence my final result. So I changed my feeling to be more cooperative. By the end I realized that my cooperative feeling was not quite sincere; there was still underlying righteousness. And he pointed out that he sensed it.
Part 2 The purpose of negative emotions. (Feeling better is not always the goal.) The goal is to be fully human. being always happy may not be. Just because we have power to change our feelings by changing our thoughts doesn’t mean that the purpose is to go from one extreme to another. It doesn’t mean you should aim for happiness all the time. Sometimes the painful Feeling is the healthiest response of a healthy functioning human. If someone you care about gets sick – you want to feel concerned or determined to find a solution. When someone you love dies, you want to feel sad; you want to feel grief. Anything other than this would be unnatural. Negative makes positive possible. You know the difference, you know the contrast . An authentic human life consists of positive and negative; some say it’s 50/50. We want to rebel against it. We always want to feel good. And that backfires. I also rebel against it, and when I do, I extend my own pain. We feel negative emotions in situations when personal safety is threatened. It is time to run, not think happy thoughts. We feel uncertain or uncomfortable when we are learning a new skill – pushing the limits of our mental or physical abilities. This is the time to expect discomfort. After all we make new connections in our brains. It is uncomfortable. But you want the skill, and the pain may be the price to pay.
Part 3 What to do with the feelings. You learned that it comes from thoughts but it’s not about “thoughts swapping.” Often the most authentic thought leads us to painful feeling. And lying to yourself will leave you feeling cheated or that there is something wrong with you. So this is the hardest part but most useful. Feel the feelings Do not: resist, avoid, react. Instead: allow, process, feel
Reacting is not the same as allowing.
- Reacting means you act out the emotion.
- While allowing means you process it on the inside –
- and it is not the same as suppressing.
(Suppressing is denying and has nothing to do with processing. ) FEEL IT. So you are at a place where you feel discomfort. See what is so hard about it. How does it feel in your body? Describe the feeling moving through you. Don’t think for a moment about the story, the reason why you feel the feeling. Focus on the sensations and vibrations in your body – because this is what feelings are. And let it flow. Emotion wants to be in motion. It doesn’t like to be held in place.
If we get stuck in negative emotion, it’s not by some outside force but because we make it happen – I made a video about being stuck in negative emotions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtnBHn6JzcI I mentioned in the beginning that We destroy our lives, wallets and health if we want to run away too fast from the negativity. Because we want to feel better asap, we reach for substance, gambling, food, shopping, scrolling to get the dopamine hit, and we don’t even look at the cause of the feelings. We don’t acknowledge what’s happening within our minds. In a way instead of becoming more aware , we become unconscious.
The process of change is the process of expanding awareness. Once you process the feelings take a look at your thoughts, how your thinking created this feeling, because it might happen that the thought didn’t even tell you the truth about the situation. So question. “Byron Katie” yourself: Is this absolutely true? Who would you be w/o this thought? Is this useful?
Another helpful method is “Equal air time” There is a thought that creates painful feeling. It is so true to you you don’t want to give it up. But there is also a different side of the situation. We are often so scared of the future, by our own imagination, that we don’t see that we are ok in this moment. A negative thought can cover the whole sky of our mind. And… what else can you notice? I am scared of the flight but I’m safe now. I’m scared of the medical procedure but I don’t feel pain now. I am stressed and I will have 30 min today to relax. I am afraid and I am healthy now. People do things wrong, and many people do things right.
Questions to ask your self and journal about:
What do you want to feel on a reg basis ? And what can you think to feel it?
Who do you rely on to make you feel something and how can you release them from this responsibility and take charge of what you feel. Release them from the Thought what they should be doing and decide what you want to be thinking. Let me know if you feel more free when you do it.
Another perspective: Andrew Huberman’s podcast >>> chemical perspective
Energetic perspective >>>