Having emotions, even negative ones, is part of being human. But when we don't have the skills to learn from our feelings and move forward, we can get mired in negativity, which prevents us from reaching our full potential. Here are seven emotions that, when not dealt with, can stop you from thriving:
Anger is arguably one of the most uncomfortable feelings because it's a call to action. When we don't have the skills to deal with it constructively, we stuff it down or feel shame because we believe anger is ugly or inappropriate. Think of that "stuffed anger" as weight that keeps you from soaring, that dilutes your life energy.
If things that made us angry happened at a time in our life when it was not safe for us to express anger, we've probably developed a lifelong pattern of suppressing it, which becomes a depressive pattern. Over time, more circumstances are left untouched by the actions we might take to affect a change, and we never learn the lessons in our anger, stunting our growth.
We are also frightened of anger because of the aggressive, red hot fiery feeling of it, which can seem like more than we can control. If you actually allow it to bloom to its fullness, you will discover it is in fact, finite, and you can handle it. It's like looking at a tremendous shadow cast on a wall. If you look at what is actually casting the shadow, it has definitive edges and is quite small in comparison to what we assumed it was by not looking directly at it.
Some ideas to deal with anger:
Today, think of something that makes you angry. It can be as small or as large as you like.
Step 1: Don’t judge it. Don't dismiss it as trivial. Don’t compare it to others who you see as having “real reasons to be angry.” You are carrying this anger, and that's what matters.
Step 2: Write about what happened and how it made you feel. Acknowledge how long you've been carrying the anger and notice how much energy it takes to stuff it down. Explain how it affects you in your everyday life.
Step 3: Write out what you're going to do to purge this from your system. It can be anything from an internal action such as: I am going to find a new perspective on this so I can find forgiveness. Or the opposite end of the spectrum: a physical action. For example: I am going to let the person know how angry I am. (Not looking for a resolution from them, simply for the purpose of not carrying the weight anymore.)
Acknowledgement + Examination + Action= FREEDOM
Regret is one of the fastest traps to spiraling downward. It disables our ability to recover from past stressful events and move forward. Instead of writing new chapters, we keep re-reading old ones and want to rip them out.
But the most damaging element of regret is the heavy self blame and judgement loaded up right behind that door. These beliefs manifest in your everyday life and you don’t feel like you can be who you want to be. Regret cripples your certainty.
Some ideas to deal with regret:
Step 1: What do you regret? Get it out. You may not want people to know. But then you’re not owning it. The value in this is to own it. Accept it. If you can’t accept it, it’s not going to go away. It will continue to haunt you.
Step 2: Forgive yourself. Consider the circumstances at the time that might have made it difficult to make better choices. How do you plan on forgiving yourself for your choices that you regret?
Step 3: Sometimes realizing we went the wrong way can become fuel. Reframe your “mistakes” and see them in a way that makes you a stronger, better version of yourself, wiser with a sharper radar. Use your regrets to give you clarity on where you want to go and who you want to be.
Shame is the prison guard that keeps us locked in a secret hell, suffering at the mercy of all our other negative emotions. Shame is the belief that things that have happened that have permanently marked us, changed us into an inferior being—not worthy of the same love, mercy, and compassion that others deserve.
As Brené Brown so beautifully said when explaining the difference between guilt and shame: “Shame is the difference between I did something bad or something bad happened to me, and I AM bad.”
Some ideas to deal with shame:
Step 1: Dissolving shame starts with defiance. Defying the prison guard that tells you that you must keep quiet or be rejected. The only way to do this is to find a voice. Write about what you are ashamed of.
Step 2: See the full picture of the bars you live behind. How does your shame isolate you, silence you, and cause you to suffer? Realize that’s what is at stake if you do not free yourself.
Step 3: How are you going to shift your perspective from shame to acceptance? Powerless to powerful? (Realize that by speaking about what you are most ashamed of, you have a powerful effect on others, as they are inspired by your courage. We expect to be rejected, but instead we are embraced.)
First, the difference between hurt and pain. I liked Padhia Avocado’s definition. “Hurt is the impact of something very definable. Pain is more abstract. It’s the suffering that results from hurt.”
Everyone has been hurt. Everyone has gone through pain. No one enters adulthood unscarred. And if they say they have, it just means they’ve experienced a lot more hurt then they realize or are willing to admit. Suffering happens when pain pushes us across that divide and into powerlessness.
As long as we feel we have no power, we will stay stuck in suffering. So how do we get back to the other side? We must feel powerful again. Or maybe for the first time in our life. We must acknowledge what or who we allowed to take away our power.
Some ideas to deal with hurt:
Step 1: What or who has hurt you? Remember, the point of this detox is to get things out. There’s a difference between thinking about something in fragments or actually typing words that force you to have complete thoughts, and therefore revelations and growth.
Step 2: What feeling or beliefs about yourself do you carry because of this hurt? And how do these ripple in your work and relationships?
Step 3: How can you regain the power you lost, thereby dissolving the hurt? This can be anything, for example, reframing it and realizing that you gained wisdom you wouldn’t have had otherwise, or holding the person who hurt you accountable for the pain they caused you.
We were not born to suffer in sorrow. Circumstances, upbringing, parents lacking tools, other people’s poor choices, things that were not in your control, have cast what you might believe is a permanent shadow that will follow you for the rest of your life. But there is a way to stand in the sun.
The first step forward is acceptance of self and story, and in order to fully accept, you must accept your feelings completely. Easier said than done. Our families, culture and religions taught us to mistrust and be critical of our true emotions.
Step 1: First, admit that you are carrying unhealed sadness. Do this by describing the sorrow you carry and why.
Step 2: Know that you are not your sorrow / sadness. Just because you carry it, it doesn’t define you. You may feel sorrow but you are not sorrow. Sorrow is residue from the past. That is not who you are today.
Step 3: Establish an accepting relationship with your sorrow. Instead of allowing it to drown you, friend it by showing it compassion as if you went back and saw yourself as a child. Shower that kid with compassion. Tell her what you wished someone would have told you.
Step 4: As you connect with your sorrow, you connect with younger parts of you, parts of you that didn’t know what to do with those feelings. Now as an adult, I hope you allow whatever emotions come, instead of stuffing them deep into a box. If you feel like crying, fucking cry. Cry harder than you ever cried before. You owe that to yourself. Maybe that’s why you’re sad, because you’ve never allowed yourself to be.
I define discouragement as "dissing your courage." When we get discouraged, we allow ourselves to be afraid. We start to question everything.
Discouragement isn’t a feeling. It’s a trap of faulty thinking. Instead of asking yourself why you get discouraged, ask yourself why you keep trapping yourself. What are you afraid of? Failure? Expectations? Judgement? What does it mean to you if you “fail”? What does it mean if you are judged?
Some ideas to deal with discouragement:
Step 1: What are you discouraged about these days?
Step 2: Track the fear. Where is it coming from? Usually it’s not what you think it is. Hint. Where do you find yourself the most defensive? Start there.
Step 3: What will be your action towards dissolving these fears?
Step 4: Finally, what’s at stake if you dis your courage?
There’s a difference between control and power. Control can feel temporary and even when we don’t feel like we have it, we believe somewhere deep inside we can obtain it, maybe in an unhealthy way. If the feeling of losing control feels like the long stretching of a thin rubber band, powerlessness is the breaking of it. Powerlessness isn’t losing power. It’s a cold snap, a complete disconnection, backwards fall into suffering.
Some ideas to deal with powerlessness:
Step 1: What areas in your life do you feel powerlessness? And is this a pattern?
Step 2: Why do you feel powerless in those areas? I want actual steps, actions you will take. Not just ideas.
Step 3: What are you going to do to not suffer anymore?
This was co-written with Padhia Avocado
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com