Let us imagine a hypothetical scenario. You are given a machine that has a magical button. If you press the button, you would experience joy without doing anything else. Happiness is literally a button away. You can feel elated without having to do anything or go anywhere. The question is, would you use such a device? Would you like to live in a world where there is constant joy and happiness?
Take a moment to think about it.
What would the world be like without failures, heartbreaks, and stress? Without anything causing negative emotions.
Anger, frustration, guilt, stress, sadness, fear, etc are often referred to as negative emotions. Why negative? Mostly because these emotions are unpleasant to experience. That is why most of us tend to avoid experiencing these emotions. We try to numb the negative emotions by doing something mindlessly - like watching a movie, meeting friends, working, scrolling through social media, etc.
In her recent research, psychologist Berne Brown pointed out that when we selectively numb negative emotions, we also numb positive emotions as a result. When we try to not feel negative emotions, instead of processing them healthily, we push them into our subconscious mind. This leads to further problems because these emotions then manifest in unexpected situations.
Let us understand a few facts about negative emotions -
If you think about it, negative emotions are not that harmful. They are just natural responses to something bad or wrong that has happened. For example - Anger is a normal reaction if some sort of injustice has happened.
Even if negative emotions are natural, the way you express them or how you act is still your responsibility. Just because something makes you angry does not mean you can say or do what comes to mind, you are still responsible for your words and deeds. Therefore it is important to learn how to manage these emotions properly.
2. Negative emotions act as a break.
You experience fear of heights, snakes, and spiders because they can be dangerous! Okay, maybe not spiders, but you get the point. The negative emotion of fear helps us stay safe, and not indulge in potentially harmful activities. This gives us a break from the adrenaline rush and forces us to think logically.
Here, I am not talking about extreme fear that leads to phobia and anxiety disorders (that is an example of disproportionate fear as compared to the trigger). The emotion of fear in itself has an important role to play in our survival. Therefore some negative emotions act as a break and stop you from danger.
3. Negative emotions carry a message
There is always a reason why you are feeling a particular emotion. You have to give yourself enough time to figure out the reason behind feeling a certain way. For example - When you feel guilty for doing something wrong, this emotion carries a message that you did something inappropriate. You can think of it as a reminder to act in the right manner.
Even the emotion of envy serves as a reminder that someone has something that you admire or value. This could act as a motivator to cultivate those qualities for yourself or work hard to achieve the said results for yourself.
The emotion of sadness helps people authentically connect. You can be vulnerable with the people you trust when you are sad and it gives others a chance to be there for you. This strengthens relationships and deepens the bond.
As you see, negative emotions serve a purpose. These days everyone is so preoccupied with chasing happiness and other positive emotions that they forget to make space for whatever emotions they are currently feeling.
Coming back to the previous question, without us actively participating in creating positive emotions, they would eventually lose their meaning. In a world without negative emotions, positive emotions would not be so pleasant either. Without pain and suffering, it will be difficult to identify the difference between right and wrong. It is difficult to find meaning in life if people do not overcome challenges that come their way.
The key takeaway from this blog is for you to remember to make space to feel the negative emotions as well. Understand your emotions and take time to process your thoughts.