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4 Techniques for Handling Negative Emotion

We don’t always do the right thing. We eat too much. We stay out too late. We make mistakes, break promises, and live a life that isn’t always in keeping with our goals.

All of this leads to negative emotions: guilt, shame, even anger come creeping in to derail your attempts to get back on track. How can you handle these kinds of negative emotions without letting it ruin your day?

We start by looking at three ways you have used to handle it and then move on to one technique you should be using all the time.

Avoiding the Emotion

Don’t we love pretending we can make the emotions go away? We bury them, suppress them, explain them away, sometimes even turning to things like drugs or alcohol just to make them stop. The problem? Anytime you’re avoiding something because of negative emotions, you’re letting the emotion control you. The better solution? Give yourself room to understand it, and deal with the underlying cause.

Pretending the Emotion is Not There

This coping mechanism is a little different. You fall into it by denying you ever felt the negative emotion in the first place. Here the problem is, the more you deny an emotion, the more it grows until it can’t be ignored any longer. Your solution, this time, is simple. Acknowledge the emotion. Accept it for what it is and let it fade on its own.

Becoming the Emotion

Sometimes the negative emotion is so powerful it becomes part of who you are. At some point, you might even start taking a certain amount of pride in it. You start saying, “Well, I’m just a mad person” or even bragging about how worse off you are than anyone else. Now you’ve become the emotion. The solution? Let the feelings process. Journal, talk to a friend, whatever you need to do, do, to let the emotion move on. Pro tip? Start encouraging positive emotions, allowing them to come in and replace the negative.

Learn

Learning the lessons of your emotions is perhaps the strongest technique of all. When you realize negative emotions are useful in your life and are there to teach you about yourself, doors start opening. You begin to see different possibilities. Feelings as educational tools have no power to control you at all, but conversely, have the power to change you in very positive ways. Like when you’re feeling angry about injustice, and you use this anger to create positive change in the world.

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