Negative Emotion & Positive Thinking? Yes, It’s Okay

There seems to be some misconception out there regarding what practicing positive thinking actually means.  Some people appear to believe they just “can’t” be a Positive Thinker or Happy Person because, no matter how hard they try, they still get angry or sad or frustrated or disappointed.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Photo by Cristiano Galbiati

Photo by Cristiano Galbiati

While I cannot jump on board with those writers who proclaim that “there is no such thing as a ‘negative’ emotion,” I can stand by the general premise that all emotion has its purpose and, if properly attended to, is useful.

I feel.  You feel.  They feel.  It’s what we humans do.  If we did not have a wide range of feelings – a variety of emotions, there wouldn’t be much to think about – now would there?

Even the Dalai Lama (who practices mutability of consciousness as a way of life) has acknowledged that there are moments when he feels “angry” with the Chinese government.  And why wouldn’t he?  Tibet has been subjugated by China (and the Dalai Lama himself forced into exile) for over 50 years now.  Although he chooses not to dwell on the negativity of that emotion – anger, he experiences it; and it motivates him to do all that he can to bring attention to the plight of his people.

On a much more mundane level, it is perfectly understandable that someone might get angry if another driver cuts them off in heavy traffic at the end of a long work day.  That emotion has meaning.  It might not be as much about the danger the other driver just created for them as the frustration they feel over not being appreciated by the boss or not having enough money to get the brake pads replaced this month; but it is an emotion that means something is not right in their world.  Something needs attention.  Paying attention to those aspects of our lives that need improvement is a good thing.  And anger is definitely an attention getter.

It’s what we do with the anger that makes all the difference.  We need not condemn ourselves for experiencing a perfectly natural human emotion.  We can learn from it. We can use it to motivate ourselves to make necessary change.

Anger is a derivative emotion.  It derives from fear, sorrow, rejection, or insecurity.  Imagine what all you could learn about yourself if, instead of automatically reacting when you find yourself getting angry, you pause and ask yourself, “what’s really going on here with me?,” “why do I feel so angry right now?,” or “what is it in my life that needs to change for me to stop feeling this way?’.  We can all learn something about ourselves every time we feel the burning heat of anger, if we just place our attention where it really needs to be — on inner awareness.

Other “negative” emotions, like sadness, have equally beneficial purposes.  With sadness, we are usually grieving over something or someone that has been lost to us.  Whether it be a lost relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or other income, a harsh word that takes away our confidence or hope, or the end of a dream — something that was there in our hearts and our lives before is now missing.  And we need to heal the pain of its absence.

Photo by Dez Pain

Photo by Dez Pain

Here’s another example of how a negative emotion can be useful:

There may be times when we are sad and we are not 100% certain why.  These instances provide us with excellent opportunities to get to know ourselves better – to engage in meaningful internal dialogue about the unhappiness we feel.  We can ask ourselves “why do I feel this way?,” “what’s going on in my life right now that could be causing these feelings?,” or “what does happiness mean to me anyway?”  This kind of constructive self-talk can be therapeutic and extremely helpful.

At the end of the day, undesirable emotions are going to occur because we are not automotons; and not one of us lives in a vacuum.  We are “out there” — taking risks, opening our hearts, loving and wanting love in return, wanting to be useful/needed, wanting to leave some trace of ourselves on this thing we call “life.”  It is often in the midst of these endeavors that we find our greatest moments of joy and serenity.  There are no absolute guarantees in it, however, and not every experience we have in life will be something we treasure.  But that simple fact does not have to stop any of us from practicing positive thinking.

Regardless of where you are in your personal growth and transformation process, I encourage you to utilize your less desirable emotions to develop self-awareness and to begin (or continue) practicing positive thinking on a regular basis.  The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Living with a positive attitude and a grateful heart is what will get you through those difficult times and give you the strength to deal with undesirable emotions as they unfold. 

© 06/13/12

To learn more about building a positive attitude, check out my post On Practicing Positive Thinking.

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4 Comments

  1. Gina's Professions for PEACE

     /  June 15, 2012

    These are such wise and helpful reminders for us. Very timely for me, as I travel best I can along my path of ever increasing awareness and joy… and then falling down. Get up, brush myself off, continue the climb, and fall. Get up. And repeat. 🙂 I really enjoy this post, all of it, especially this: “We need not condemn ourselves for experiencing a perfectly natural human emotion. We can learn from it. We can use it to motivate ourselves to make necessary change.” Love that! Many thanks to you. Gina

    Reply
  2. Thanks Gina! Your description of the ups and downs you’ve been experiencing sounds all too familiar to me. Welcome to the self-realization process, as they say. I remind myself constantly that it’s ALL part of the process. And two steps forward and one back is still moving ahead.

    Your work has certainly been a blessing to me; and I’m pleased you’re enjoying what you find here too.
    Many Blessings,
    Sloan

    Reply
  3. Beautifully put. I loved reading your blog and am so very happy that I happened upon it!!!!

    Reply
    • You have great energy! I can feel it all the way “over here.” 🙂 I’m so glad you’re enjoying the posts. Have a beautifully blessed day! Love & Light, S

      Reply

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