How to make negative emotions work for you

You don’t need ME to tell you that dwelling on negative emotions to the extent that they chew us up is never helpful.

However, emotions are a signal of something, and acknowledging them and analysing them can prove useful in finding a way forward and spurring us into action …

 

Regret: highlighting things to be replaced

Regret is often characterised by wishing you’d not done something, wishing you HAD done something or wondering what might have been if you’d taken a different course of action.

Overall, it’s probably more useful to focus on what IS rather than what might have been. However, focusing on the specifics of what it is you regret can be useful, as you may be able to replace or compensate for some of these things.

If you regret moving house, for example, WHY exactly? If you pinpoint exactly what it is you miss, you may well be able to find replacements where you are now.

If you regret a relationship break-up, what specifically were the good things about the relationship that you can find with someone else?

If your regret is about things that you wish you’d done but didn’t, or an opportunity missed, learn from that and DO something now.

 

Anger as a spur to action

In this context, anger could vary from mild annoyance to incandescent rage. And once again, if unchecked, anger can be extremely self-destructive.

However, it IS telling you something.

Try to focus on what specifically you are angry about. If you feel so strongly about it, what can you DO about it? Likely as not, the more angry you are about something, the more motivated you might be to do something about it. And make sure it’s useful: I’m not talking about revenge here!

Where I live, many people are angry that the local authority is planning to build hundreds more houses in the village. Many are planning to make a protest of some sort, and it’s fair to say that the strength of their feeling will probably have an impact on the level of protest they make.

If you really can’t do anything about the thing that is making you angry, think carefully about developing coping strategies – you may just have to learn to let it go – and perhaps consider a Plan B to address the issue.

Deciding to DO something rather than just feeling angry will make you feel more empowered and less helpless and frustrated.

 

Boredom as a signal for the need to change

Boredom. Stuck in a rut. Ho hum. It can often lead to frustration, which in turn can lead to anger.

It’s all too easy to blame circumstances, your job, your boss, you family situation … almost anything … for being stuck in a rut.

What boredom IS telling you, though, is that it’s time for change.

Don’t just sit there. Challenge yourself to do something different. Try something new.

 

Fear as a spur to develop strength of character

Fear is the biggest single factor that stops people from doing things: fear of what people might say, fear of being wrong, fear of failure, fear of success.

The clue is in the title of Susan Jeffer’s book ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’: feeling fear, isolating SPECIFICALLY what you’re afraid of and moving beyond it are the stepping stones for developing courage, confidence and strength of character.

I once (briefly) overcame my fear of heights and abseiled down the side of a tall building for charity. My specific fear was of falling to my death. Logically, given all the safety procedures, I knew that that simply wasn’t going to happen: I still FELT the fear, but I focused on the logic of stepping over the edge and raising a few funds for a good cause, and I did it.

I’ll never do it again, mind you … but at least now I know that I can overcome my fears and just get on with it if I have to.

 

Jealousy to tell you what you want

Ah! The green eyed monster! How could jealousy POSSIBLY be useful in any shape or form?

In common with ALL negative emotions, extreme jealousy is NOT helpful. Mild envy, though could be telling you something.

I’m not the least bit envious of people who drive big fancy cars even if they brag about them … because I really don’t care about big fancy cars.

On the other hand, I always feel a slight pang of envy when I hear of someone I know having a book published … because I want to have a book published. I don’t begrudge them their success, but I DO recognise that their success is something that I’d like to emulate.

So that’s it: I’m going to write a book.

Who do you envy, and for what? And how might you turn wishful thinking into a determined action to achieve something?

 

In a nutshell, then, what are your negative emotions telling you? Focusing on the emotion, rationalising it and figuring out exactly where it’s coming from, and then moving through it to some sort of action could ultimately make the pain worthwhile.

 

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