Positive Intentions of Negative Emotions

I have talked to some people who want to eradicate their undesirable traits and negative emotions. There are two big problems with this. The Law of Duality says that everything exists in opposite pairs. We know light because of dark and good because of bad. So, eradicating anything is actually impossible. The other big problem is that all emotions are useful. Even though negative  emotions may seem unpleasant, they have a useful function. Once you know what they are, you can allow them to work for you. Let’s take a look.

Jealousy/Desire

Some people like jealousy. It tells them that they are cared about. It is seen as a way of expressing love. Other people find jealousy shameful. It demonstrates weakness and insecurity. These are both manmade constructs that can either validate you or destroy you. Since jealousy can lead to destructive behavior, the more effective way of viewing it, perhaps, is to see it as an awakening desire. Not desire for another person, but for the qualities that they possess that you don’t see within yourself. Or maybe it is a desire for the things that person has that you don’t yet have.

For example, let’s say that I see someone on television with a lavish lifestyle. I notice that it’s hard for me to watch without feeling jealous and thinking unkind thoughts. Instead of beating myself up over it or denying it, I can use it! This feeling is telling me that I desire this for myself. I don’t see this level of abundance in my own life. My inner self wants me to have that and this emotion is showing me what is lacking. This isn’t done to make me feel bad. It’s done to motivate me to do something to fill that void. I can either take action, change my values, or continue feeling jealous. One suggestion is to cultivate more gratitude in your life. Without gratitude abundance slows to a trickle. You have to appreciate good things in order to attract them.

negative emotionsFear/Need for Safety

Fear shows up in many ways. There are the obvious physical symptoms like your heart pounding, your breath becoming more shallow and confined to your chest, and the blood moving to your extremities. There are physical reactions like fighting, fleeing, or shutting down. Some may fight verbally. Some may use humor to diffuse the threat. Some may get calm and cool to reduce the threat. All of these things are done to create safety. Fear is instinctual, and it’s also learned. Some people learn to fear spiders while others don’t.

It’s rare in modern times to face a life threatening menace. If that is what is inducing the fear, let your instinct take over. Otherwise, be mindful. Slow down. Breathe through it and give yourself a moment to think about what it is that would make you truly safe without damaging yourself or others. If your job makes you feel unsafe, it’s probably time to get another job. If you don’t feel safe around your partner, it could be time to let that relationship go. If you don’t feel safe outdoors, perhaps it is time to get more life experience so your comfort zone increases. In other words, don’t shut negative emotions down. Make them work for you.

Guilt/Atonement

Guilt arises when we perceive that we have not lived up to our ideals. Or maybe we are being influenced by others to feel guilty about not living up to their ideals. Either way the positive intention is for you to be better than you are (by your own assessment).

What can you do with that? If you truly have not lived up to your ideals, the positive intention could be atonement. When you make reparations, you can feel in alignment with yourself again. If the issue is that you are not in alignment with someone else’s ideals, perhaps what is needed is for you to repair the injury done to your self-esteem through allowing yourself to be judged by someone else’s standards. In other words, let go of other people’s standards for what you should be and live by your own. Another possibility is that it’s time for you to review the standards you set for yourself. Perhaps they are unrealistic or not a reflection of who you really are. Your inner conscience wants you to be whole. It wants you to be congruent. No emotion exists to punish you. There is always a positive intention to negative emotions.

Anger/Restoration of Boundaries or Justice

Anger communicates that we have been violated, betrayed, or trespassed against. It is a way of alerting us to protect our boundaries or express a need for justice. If we didn’t feel anger, we could lose our self-esteem and let people just walk all over us. We could allow people to hurt us.

Anger is tricky. While our inner self may perceive that injustice has occurred or that our boundaries have been violated, it’s important to assess whether or not this is objectively true. For example, if I am a teenager who feels I need more freedom and my mother is not allowing me to hang out all night with my friends, we might disagree about whether or not a trespass happened. Negative emotions are not a gauge of truth. They are just an indication that our truth is out of alignment in some way.

When you feel angry, it’s a sign that you need to pay attention to boundaries. Perhaps yours are not very strong. Maybe you need to adjust your idea of what healthy boundaries are. Or maybe you need to relax a bit.

Emotions Have a Purpose

Positive and negative emotions have a purpose. These are: to communicate something, to influence others, to organize and motivate action, and to validate your perception of reality. Whether they make you feel up or down, they are a natural, useful part of life. When you make friends with them and allow them to communicate something to you, the tougher ones become much easier to bear. When you learn from them, you grow so that you experience desirable emotions more often and fewer negative emotions. So make friends with your emotions. They really do exist to help you.

So, what do you do now? First, when you notice that you are feeling something undesirable, pause. It’s a sign that something is out of alignment. Next, identify the emotion. This will help you to get centered and give you a clue what to do next. Remember that feelings are an unreliable barometer for reality. If you are not sure what’s happening, talk it out with someone you trust to gain clarity. If there is something you can do to address the need, do that. If not, accept it.

If your issue involves someone else who doesn’t want to help you resolve the problem in a mutually satisfying way, accept that. It’s not your role to soothe or change the world. Everyone has a right to self-determination. If they don’t agree, don’t want to change, or don’t want to reconcile, that’s the end of his or her part of it. Now it’s up to you to do what you can to fix your part.  You can move on knowing that you listened to your inner guide and allowed them to do the same.

Your emotions are good. They are a reflection of where you are right this moment. Feel them. Express them in a healthy way. Let them inform you about yourself and how you see the world. Let them guide you in your interactions. If you trip up and create a little havoc in this journey in life, learn from it. Let it mean something. Then keep on going. Emotions add color to this beautiful existence. Don’t suppress or eradicate this side of yourself. It’s part of the human experience, your human experience.

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