One of the biggest misconceptions about personal development is that it leads to permanent, unflappable happiness. The point of personal development isn’t to feel happy all the time. Instead, it’s to become more aware of what we’re feeling and to master the way we respond to our feelings.
In that process, we often come face to face with two types of emotion: Positive emotions – like joy, comfort, excitement, and negative emotions – like anger, jealousy and hatred. Here I’d like to talk about that latter. The bit that’s often left repressed, ignored, or flatly avoided. But negative emotions are often as important, if not more than positive emotions.
Negative emotions are a natural part of life, and they exist for a good reason. Fear, anger, hurt, rejection all these feelings are useful emotional responses to certain situations. For example, fear is the emotion that helps us survive. Without fear, we’d cut vegetables with a knife without looking. We wouldn’t think much before getting ourselves into any kind of dangerous situation.
“Don’t worry, be happy.” Isn’t that the free advice that comes at you left, right, and center, when you feel low? But I say, “Go ahead! Worry, you don’t always need to be happy.”
Repressing negative emotions is abusing your mental health unconsciously
Remember the movie ‘Inside Out’?
The movie shows the importance of feeling sadness. Sadness helped the main character in the film, Riley manage the changes in her life, just as sadness helps everyone readjust to new situations that are mostly unwanted. Sadness made it easier for her to process the sudden change in the environment around and maintained a balance that was required for her emotional well-being.
In a study of more than 1,300 adults, the researchers found that the people who regularly try to resist the negative emotions they experience have higher chances of experiencing symptoms of mood disorders months later, compared with people who accept those emotions.
Processing negative emotions like trauma, anger, and low self-worth are important, instead of repressing them. One can’t just get through those feelings by trying to “be positive”. And what might look happy on the outside might not be as great inside.
Experts say repression could be done through/or lead to substance abuse, self-harm or other similar coping mechanisms which are way worse than emotions the society considers “negative”, because these only repress what we feel temporarily and don’t offer a permanent solution. But sometimes the pressure of wanting to be positive enough to be liked can make us do things we don’t want to.
Feelings are our way to negotiate with the world around us. If an emotion is not acknowledged or is repressed, the ways of coping with it will not have a healthy outcome.Vickie Rai, Mental Health Counsellor
Happiness and sadness co-exist. We try to look happy for others and doing that regularly somehow gets us convinced that we’re happy and all our worries remain unaddressed.
My closest of friends during their tough times have had their bucket of worries flooded with unsolicited statements like “you can never be happy with anything” or “you’re not trying hard enough”. And these don’t make things easier for someone who isn’t happy, because we are not supposed to feel happy with everything life throws at us.
There are many researches today that argue processing one’s negative emotions are just as important. When we focus only on positive emotions, it limits our chances of authentically connecting with people. Emotional intelligence, which has now become one of the most researched topics, is recognizing that all emotions can be adaptive and helpful.Syeda Lameeya Parween, Psychologist and Phd research scholar.
Like many of us, I tried fighting those emotions too but things started falling in place only when I started accepting them. Allow yourself to feel the negative emotions as it helps you discover the reason behind it. You won’t know if a diet is good for weight-loss till you try it. The same way you’ll never realise the importance of the ones you love till you feel the fear of losing them. It’s all a part of your emotional intelligence.