Do you ever feel so mad that you might explode, so afraid that you can’t move, or so sad that you lose all will? When you feel anger, fear, or sadness, it’s natural to want to get away from these supposedly “negative” emotions. From a young age we are encouraged not to express them. People around us want us to cheer up right away, as if there is some danger in experiencing these uncomfortable feelings. After all, we’ve all seen what can happen when these emotions get over-blown and out of control.
However, what if these emotions are natural responses to life? What if they carry useful information? What if allowing ourselves to feel them is important for our health, well-being, and openness to inner guidance? In this brief article, we’ll explore why it’s important to reframe “negative” emotions as simply “uncomfortable” and how to turn them into allies.
So, how could anger, fear, and sadness be useful to us?
Consider that all emotions give you feedback on what is happening both inside and around you. They can alert you to what others are thinking, feeling, and doing and how this might be affecting you. They also give you information about what you are thinking, feeling, and doing and if that’s effective for you or not.
For example, anger naturally arises when you or someone or something important to you is, or has been, threatened. Anger is a protection response. It alerts you to set boundaries, say “no,” or take protective action—and it provides the energy and adrenaline to do that. At least this is anger’s natural function.
When we don’t allow ourselves to feel appropriate anger, it can get bottled up inside and come out in inappropriate ways, ways that are damaging and have little to do with protecting something important. In contrast, when we allow ourselves to feel anger, we can ask ourselves questions to discern if there’s an appropriate use for this energy. Then we can take action consciously and purposefully.
A good question to ask your anger is “Is there anything or anyone that needs to be protected?”
Fear can also signal the need for action. Often this action is related to potential future consequences. For example, when you have a test coming up, a little fear is an appropriate motivator that gets you studying. When you are afraid you won’t be able to pay the bills, fear might send you forth on a job search. When you are afraid of future health consequences of not losing weight, fear might get you started on a healthy eating plan and exercise.
A good question to ask fear is “Is there any action I need to take to handle this situation?”
Sadness arises to help you let something go. Sadness helps you grieve a loss that has happened or let go of something that no longer serves you. This enables you to move on to what will serve you best, now and in the future.
A good question to ask of sadness is “Is there something I need to let go of?”
These are all examples of how uncomfortable emotions can be healthy and informative. When you relate to them consciously and purposefully, they can help you navigate your life appropriately and effectively. If you:
1. Tune into your feelings,
2. Ask them good questions, and
3. Take appropriate action,
your emotions will resolve and dissipate naturally.
As you practice these three steps again and again, you’ll discover that uncomfortable feelings can be great allies. Instead of avoiding them, you can use them for the information and energy they provide.
I would love to hear ways that you’ve learned to work with your uncomfortable emotions in the Comments section below.