As emotions are at the heart of virtually all conflicts in relationships I will begin this post with a quote:
“All ‘deluded’ states of mind, all afflictive emotions and thoughts are essentially distorted, in that they are rooted in misperceiving the actual reality of the situation. No matter how powerful, deep down these negative emotions have no valid foundation. They are based on ignorance. On the other hand, all the positive emotions or states of mind, such as love, compassion, insight and so on, have a solid basis. When the mind is experiencing these positive states, there is no distortion.” – The Dalai Lama ‘The Art of Happiness’ and its condensed derivative ‘The Essence of Happiness’ by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.; the website can be found at http://www.theartofhappiness.com/
Batteries, magnets, transformers etc work because they have both positive and negative. In order for us to work well we should welcome, embrace and understand all of our emotions both positive and negative. Very briefly this means acknowledging the lasting nature of positive emotions due to their solid foundation and understanding that negative emotions will pass due to having no real foundation. Our emotions are after all a part us and to deny any of them would be to deny ourselves.
I have a little something I repeat to myself occasionally when negative emotions threaten to become overwhelming:
- I welcome and embrace all of my emotions both positive and negative
- I am responsible for them; they are mine
- I accept I may not be able to choose what happens to me
- I accept that I may not be able to choose my emotional response
- I accept all that happens to me and the resultant emotional responses
- I know I can choose my reaction to whatever happens to me
- I know I can choose my reaction to my emotional responses
- I suppress no emotions
- I repress no memories
- I remember the good memories with joy
- I remember the bad memories with gratitude for the lessons learned
The table below displays my view on which categories emotions fall in to; it is not an exhaustive list:
|Positive +||Both +/-||Negative –|
Where an emotion falls in to the ‘Both +/-’ category it means that I think that it has both negative and positive aspects; if the negative aspects can be reduced to zero the emotion moves in to the ‘Positive +’ category and vice versa. For example discharging at someone in a hateful or vengeful way are negative aspects of anger; jolting someone in to action, performing better or realisation of their bad behaviour are positive aspects of anger.
With reference to my previous post, Love and In Love, it’s interesting to note that while ‘love’ has purely positive qualities, ‘in love’ has both positive and negative qualities. Mathematics teaches us that a positive + a negative = a negative. Therefore it is possible to conclude that ‘in love’ is a negative emotion resulting in the distortion of reality.
The problem with most quick-fix, self-help advice about dealing with negative emotions is that they encourage repression, suppression and/or avoidance of discomforting feelings. The result is brief feel-good periods but because the underlying issues have been left unresolved they resurface at a later stage causing even worse feel-bad periods than they did initially. The Options Project run by the Mental Health Foundation of Australia has an excellent information brochure on dealing with negative emotions. In my view if you feel like crying do so until you feel better. Ideally with someone you trust holding you or somewhere private where you won’t be interrupted. If you are angry take time out to calm down before resuming communication with others in order avoid saying regretful things – guilt always follows uncontrolled angry outbursts; to paraphrase Nike…Just Don’t Do It!
The following quotes are a couple of suggested long term methods for dealing with negative thoughts and emotions. I’m totally in agreement with the first two. I have some reservations about the third although nonetheless have included it for completeness:
- “Our positive states of mind can act as antidotes to our negative tendencies and delusory states of mind… As you enhance the capacity of these antidotal factors, the greater their force, the more you will be able to reduce the force of the mental and emotional afflictions, the more you will be able to reduce the influences and effects of these things.” – The Dalai Lama, ‘The Art of Happiness’ and its condensed derivative ‘The Essence of Happiness’
- “The very fact that we can change our emotions and counteract negative thoughts by applying alternative ways of thinking lends support to the Dalai Lama’s position that we can overcome our negative mental states through the application of the ‘antidotes’, or the corresponding positive mental states. And when this fact is combined with recent scientific evidence that we can change the structure and function of the brain by cultivating new thoughts, then the idea that we can achieve happiness through training of the mind seems a very real possibility.” – Howard C. Cutler M.D., ‘The Art of Happiness’ and its condensed derivative ‘The Essence of Happiness’
- “Advocates of positive thinking suggest thinking positive thoughts as much as you can and avoid negative thinking altogether. While it is true that thinking positive thoughts will makes us feel better than thinking negative ones, positive thinking is an erroneous concept, based on the assumption that thought, in and of itself, has a reality which we need to be concerned with. But be it positive or negative, thought is still only a function. When we understand thought for what it truly is, we see positive or negative for what they are. A positive thinker is constantly under pressure to produce only positive thoughts, which takes enormous effort and concentration, leaving little energy for new and creative thoughts. When negative thoughts do enter the mind (which they will), a positive thinker has to deny their existence and override them with positive ones.” – Richard Carlson, PH.D., ‘YOU CAN BE HAPPY no matter what’
Stay strong and serene.