There is a good thing about bad emotions– they tell you something is wrong. And there is a process for harnessing your emotions and creating positive outcomes.
When I first started in real estate, it did not take long for me to realize that I wasn’t the most valuable person in the room. I didn’t have all the information and I certainly didn’t have the experience to make up for my lack of knowledge. As you can imagine, I had a cluster of emotions. These negative emotions motivated me to push through the grind and helped me become a more successful broker.
Below is an article on how to handle negative emotions. Here are three steps I like:
- Weigh the pros and cons for making a change – What are the consequences?
- Talk to yourself as if you were giving advice to a child – This will force you to turn a complex issue, into a simple issue.
- It’s a marathon not a sprint. Take baby steps – “Big changes are the result of small steps repeated consistently over time.”
Are negative emotions holding you back from where you want to be? In my book, The Fantastic Life, I talk about staying out of The Gap, or the space between where you are and where you want to be. Order a copy of my book to get some details on The Gap, and start using negative feelings to your advantage.
Rule #7 from my book The Fantastic Life: Stay Out of The Gap
What’s holding you back from being the person you want to be? Is it doubt, fear, anxiety? Negative feelings are some of the strongest deterrents in the world, and learning to control them means learning how to control your future.
Why You Need Negative Feelings
Emotions such as anger or envy can be turned around to help you change your behavior
By Elizabeth Bernstein
Aug. 22, 2016
Good news: There is an upside to feeling down.
In a movement that some experts are calling “the second wave of positive psychology,” many psychologists are recognizing that negative feelings that make us uncomfortable or unhappy may sometimes be good for us. If we pay attention to them, they can help us identify what is wrong in our life and motivate us to seek change. Research even shows that people who have negative thoughts along with positive ones are healthier.
This is a response to the approach popular since the late 1990s, when the field of positive psychology arose, emphasizing upbeat emotions and traits with the goal that people should flourish, not simply be free of distress. Thousands of research studies, books and magazine articles were published to help people understand how to use the power of the positive to be happier.
Think of negative feelings “like a baby’s cry,” says Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “It’s unpleasant and aversive, but it will motivate you to do something that is good.”
Not all negative emotions have a good side. Feelings such as hopelessness, worthlessness or despair—psychologists call these “empty” emotions—typically signal depression and are pretty much impossible to turn to your advantage. If you have these feelings and they persist more than two weeks, you should seek professional help, experts say.
Beneficial negative feelings—ones that typically can be harnessed for positive change—include guilt, anger, sadness, anxiety, envy and loneliness. Unlike the empty emotions, these are often based in reality; something has happened to make you feel this way. And they are meant to be warnings that we need to protect ourselves from bad behavior, either our own or someone else’s.
The trick is to be able to identify the emotion correctly, then figure out what change in your behavior will alleviate it. The goal isn’t to banish the feeling but to harness it for positive transformation.
Here is how you do that:
Label the Feeling
Name the emotion with one word. Tell yourself: “I’m angry.” Or “I’m sad.”
If you’re having trouble recognizing exactly what you’re feeling, tune into your body, breathing deeply for five to 10 breaths, says Mariel Diaz, a licensed clinical social worker in San Diego. Is your heart racing? You’re likely anxious. Do you have a heavy feeling in your chest? You’re probably sad. Does your jaw feel tense? That is a sign of anger.
Make a Pros and Cons List
A negative emotion is a signal that something needs to change. But how do you know if you make that change you will feel better? You’ll need to weigh the consequences.
Think of what behavior caused the emotion you are feeling. Then write down in a list all the ways the behavior makes you feel good. On the other side of the page, write down all the ways the behavior makes you feel bad.
Say you feel guilty because you went out last night with a group of people and gossiped about a friend who wasn’t there. In the “pro” column, you might write that it felt nice to have the group’s rapt attention and you felt popular when you were gossiping. In the “con” column, you might say you didn’t sleep well afterward because you felt guilty, you were irritable all morning, you are worried your friend will find out. Ask yourself: Are the pros worth the cons?
“Feeling bad can be protective because it can tell you what you need to avoid in your life,” says Dion Metzger, a psychiatrist in Atlanta who often tells her patients to use this technique.
Listen for “Should”
We all have an inner critic telling us what we “should” do. It is important to listen to it.
Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, listening as another guest describes her promotion at work. She’s excited about her new responsibilities; she’ll get to travel overseas and she got a nice raise. After a few minutes you start to feel annoyed and find yourself liking her less. You’re envious.
What’s your inner critic saying? That you should work harder to impress your boss? Or you should start networking and look for a new job? “The inner critic is telling you what action to take,” says Ms. Diaz, the San Diego therapist.
Imagine a Redo
Think of what triggered your negative feelings. Then run through the event again in your mind, but imagine yourself altering your behavior. What would you have done differently to feel better now?
Say you spent an entire weekend alone, running errands and watching TV. By Sunday evening you felt lonely and sad. Redo your weekend in your mind. What would you change? Would you have called friends and made plans? Taken yourself out to dinner? Researched a new hobby so you have something fun and social to do next weekend? Plan to do these things going forward.
Talk to a Child
Imagine a child who feels as you do. Then imagine helping that child understand those feelings and how to avoid them in the future. You wouldn’t dismiss, ignore or blame the child. You would listen in a caring manner and speak gently. You would explain things simply. The goal is to speak to yourself this way.
What if that child was anxious because she hadn’t prepared for a test? What would you suggest she do in the future to avoid this feeling? What could she do now?
“If you think of a child in distress, it typically awakens a compassionate response,” says Tim Lomas, a psychologist and lecturer at the University of East London. “You want to help them understand that what they are feeling is OK and normal, and you want to help them cope with it.”
Take Baby Steps
Change is hard. Trying to alter behavior too quickly doesn’t work because it produces something called cognitive dissonance—a discrepancy in what you’re thinking and how you’re behaving.
You’ll need to take it slow, as you would if you were going to change yourself physically, by going on a diet or training for a marathon.
Identify the way you should behave to feel better. Maybe you have a friend who is always late for dinner and keeps you waiting. You are mad at him but also mad at yourself because you put up with his rudeness.
You may hate confrontation and find it uncomfortable to challenge your friend as soon as he breezes in the door, while you are still fuming. Take deep breaths. Have a glass of wine. Remind yourself why you like your friend and that his company is worth it. Then tell him how his behavior makes you feel.
“Big changes are the result of small steps repeated consistently over time,” says Ms. Diaz