The question of how to deal with negative emotions is important because as a work at home mom or dad you may encounter more than your fair share.
These emotions serve a purpose in our lives, the trouble is they can be debilitating especially if you’re in an environment or situation that causes them to be triggered frequently.
I know from my own experience that looking after infants and small children can be very stressful, and whilst your children may not be the trigger for negative emotions, other influences can certainly tip the balance and have you seeing red.
It’s ok if this happens once in a while you can cope fairly well, but if it’s a constant state of being it can leave you feeling anxious, frustrated, overwhelmed and depressed.
Although the initial emotions are often short lived your response to them can make a huge difference. If the emotion leads to you developing a bad mood, you can end up in a useless and harmful state of mind for hours if not days.
If you remain in the mood, the thoughts you generate can trip the emotions again and again leaving you going around in circles, never quite able to break free.
Dealing with negative emotions
It’s OK to have negative emotions, in fact, I want you to know that it can be very advantageous—which might be the best bit of news you’ve heard in a while!
If you feel you’re particularly susceptible to your emotions at the moment, perhaps you also feel you should be able to deny yourself the indulgence of negative emotions and you feel weak because you can’t?
Don’t be too hard on yourself a lot of it is beyond your control.
Positive and negative emotions
The thing is, basic emotions such as anger are pretty much baked into your brain and come from the survival instinct. Yes, our brains have evolved and so too have our emotions, but despite everything, these almost primitive responses are still incredibly powerful and readily triggered.
The real trick is to be able to control our response to the emotion so that we make better decisions. Over time we can learn to desensitise ourselves to certain stimuli so that the impact of the emotion isn’t so intense… but it takes time and lots of practice.
I believe it’s essential to long term success and happiness to adopt positive thinking and participate in activities that produce positive emotions—but I also know from my own experiences that it’s not the answer in the beginning.
You have to use the tools you’ve got
Wishing you had a chainsaw when all you’ve got is a blunt axe and a rusty saw isn’t going to get the tree chopped down. If you want the wood to make a fire to give you warmth and light you have to use the tools you’ve already got.
You’ll only be able to chop down a small tree and it will be harder than it needs to and take longer than you’d like, but you’ll have wood for your fire.
If you’re planning on doing nothing and waiting for Christmas hoping that Santa brings you a top of the range chainsaw, you’re going to be out in the cold, dark wilderness for a long time.
In other words, if sheer bloody mindedness is all you’ve got, it will have to do (for now).
When positive thinking just doesn’t work
So what are you supposed to do when all you feel is negativity, anger and despondency?
When you’re killing yourself to build a business to sustain your family and create a better future, whilst at the same time you have the pressure of dealing with managing the home and raising a family–how are you supposed to pull through when you feel absolutely miserable and thoroughly beaten up?
This might sound odd, but I believe this puts you in a strong position.
Unfortunately it took me a long time to realise this. Having done lots of reading I was absolutely convinced that there was something wrong with me for being unable to harness the power of positivity and smile my way out of pain.
Fortunately (although I didn’t see it that way at the time) something happened that made me so angry that I found a new level of determination to resolve a situation that had bothered me for ages.
For years I’ve been trying to lose weight and getting only so far before putting it back on again. Every time I really started to feel the pressure I quit the diet and went back to stress eating.
But on this occasion I was so filled with rage that I had a bitter and defiant “I’ll show you!” moment. My phrasing was different but it amounted to the same thing.
I have to admit my motives weren’t the purest and neither were the emotions, but it broke the inertia and I took action in a big way and lost a good amount of weight.
After a while the anger dissipated and I slid back into my old pattern of eating too much. But again, fortunately for me (although once again, I didn’t feel fortunate at the time) the original issue reared its ugly head and I was back to the ‘I’ll show you’ attitude and back to the diet and weight loss.
By now I was getting much better at the positive thinking and had worked on reframing the negative stuff in my life.
I went through this process one more time and as painful as it was I finally spotted the pattern.
I started to realize that the negative emotions were like rocket fuel for getting me motivated in the first instance, but after I’d run out of fuel I had nothing to keep me going.
It turns out that running out of fuel wasn’t such a problem.
The better I did with the diet and the weight loss, the more I felt good about myself and what I was achieving. I started to feel I was in control. I felt that if I could get control of one aspect of my life I could get control of more.
Every little success fed the next, so instead of feeling pushed by the negative emotion I felt pulled towards the positive.
I didn’t know it at the time but in psychology what I was doing is called sublimation.
What is sublimation?
In a nutshell, it’s the channelling of negative emotions or feelings into positive actions or behaviour.
So in this case I was using the anger I felt, as a way to motivate myself to lose weight. Instead of directing all that raw emotion at the object of my anger I used it to achieve something positive.
The danger of un-channelled negative emotions
- It’s not a great place to stay for any period of time in terms of your physical or mental health. Negative emotions cause a physiological reaction with the release of some pretty potent chemicals. You could end up getting addicted to the drama.
- It impedes creativity. Granted there have been some for whom dark emotions have inspired some great works, but I would suggest the vast majority find it difficult to do any meaningful work with a head full of torment and rage.
- It makes you horrible to be around. You can spot someone in a foul mood a mile away which is just as well because it gives others plenty of time to take avoiding action. It’s lonely in the doldrums.
- You’re so tightly focussed on the bitter resentment that you lose sight of everything else that’s going on around you. You will almost certainly miss out on opportunities to improve your life simply because you don’t see them.
- It’s not sustainable. For most people the original emotion and the feelings that it generates eventually subside. It’s hard to stay mad about something for long, so you’ll need something else to motivate you.
The benefits of channelling negative energy
- It stops you causing damage to your immediate environment and the people who inhabit it. Whereas normally you’d let those in earshot have it with both barrels you subdue the instinct to lash out and you keep your relationships intact.
- It gives you a release and an outlet for the negative energy and emotion. Bottling it up for an extended period doesn’t resolve it and it’s every bit as likely to resurface the next time you’re provoked to feel negativity.
- You do something and doing is great for creating small victories upon which you can build more self-esteem and confidence.
- It gives you with time and space to consider your reaction. By building in even a two second delay between the emotion and the reaction while you think about what to do, it gives you a valuable opportunity to make a better decision.
As people experience negative emotions in different ways it’s tough to offer a solution that will suit everyone but I hope this helped.
Ideally you’ll learn to build better tools (like positive thinking) to help you cope, but when all you’ve got, is all you’ve got, it will just have to do.
So get tuned into your negative emotions and use them – provided you have a direction, a goal or dream you can produce a positive outcome from a dismal situation.
Don’t hang around waiting until you’ve mastered the art of positive thinking before you do something to make your life better.
How do you deal with your negative emotions?
Picture (Creative Commons) CarbonNYC