The Silver Lining of Negative Emotions


Throughout our lives, we go through experiences and encounter situations that trigger emotions deep inside. Some are positive, arising from satisfaction, success, feeling appreciated or loved, etc.; others are negative, arising from humiliation, being left behind, not appreciated, and so on. Both kinds of emotions form our human experience and make us who we are.

While we feel satisfied when we experience good emotions, negative ones make us feel uncomfortable; most of the time we try to ignore them or push them away, whenever possible, without even admitting they exist. However, there is an extremely important point many of us seem to forget: negative emotions are normal and are an essential part of our makeup. Moreover, they can be messengers that convey extremely important messages that can save us from potential dangers, physically and morally.

Negative; Not Bad!

Negative emotions are not always bad; sometimes they take the stage to tell us more about ourselves and guide us to solutions and possibilities we may be blinded to. Yet, to be able to make them work for us, not against us, we should know first their nature and how to manage them.

The wide range of negative emotions we experience, starting from the basic—anger, disgust, fear, and sadness, to contempt, embarrassment, guilt, and shame—do not happen out of the blue; they are results or responses to some triggers. Their purpose is to provide us with feedback on our environment and the situations we face, whether they are safe or not. In this aspect, negative emotions indicate that something is not right; our safety and wellbeing may be at stake and something should be done to restore it.

Motivators to Act

Suppressing negative emotions is not the right way to handle them; untreated negative emotions can harm relationships and careers. We, thus, need to switch our focus to benefit from them and get better results. To do that, we should first label them, to be able to treat them the right way:

  1. Anxiety arises to send us messages that our environment or behaviors are not working for us and affecting our wellbeing; it pushes us to do anything that can lead to changing the way we feel right now.
  2. Frustration can be a signal that something is unjust; it may drive us to try to understand where we went wrong or act to correct an unfair process.
  3. Fear indicates that there is a possible danger or threat that may harm us and that we need to be careful and pay close attention.
  4. Sadness can be an alert that there are new stimuli or there is something that is not just right; things need to be fixed and require more attention to deal with.
  5. Anger is such strong motivation that encourages us to act or address situations or people you have found problematic; it motivates us to act to restore your own peace.

Sink or Swim

Keeping in mind that negative emotions start their cycle in the brain, affecting our cognitive function and mental health, and their effect extends to having a direct impact on our physical state as well, we should think twice while trying to ignore them because it can be extremely harmful on the long-run. The same also goes for ruminating too much on them.

Yes, negative emotions stick to us more likely than positive ones do, so it would be better to know how to deal with them in order not to keep carrying on slivers of bad decisions and memories along the way of our lives. Know how to squeeze them to get the benefits, not just the unpleasantness; we should listen carefully to the messages they try to convey to us to be able to act wisely in our next battles.


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