Do you ever suppress your feelings? You’re not alone. Here’s why negative emotions are actually good for you – and how you can allow yourself to feel them.
I love a good, juicy crying session.
I also love feeling anger rise up in my body, noticing anxious butterflies in my stomach, and allowing deep sadness to wash over me.
No, I’m not a masochist (I don’t think?).
I just recognise that these negative emotions have tons to teach me – especially in the “autumn” phase of my menstrual cycle.
Our negative emotions can be good for us.
Despite what certain New Age spiritual gurus might tell us, feeling good is not our only job.
Yes, it’s good to feel good. But happiness is ephemeral; it’s not a permanent state of being.
And feeling bad is a normal, healthy part of life.
Why faking a smile doesn’t work
A friend of mine recently told me,
“I’m so confused – I feel pretty terrible at the minute, but all these books I’m reading tell me I’ll only attract more of it if I feel bad. I really don’t know what to do – it feels false to just pretend to be happy, but should I fake it ’til I make it?”
My response? There’s literally no point in faking happiness.
No matter how hard we try, it will always be a façade.
And wearing a mask of perpetual positivity becomes completely exhausting (trust me, I’ve been there).
I grew up being praised for my positivity, so I strived to wear a smile at all times. But by the time I was an adult, it was all fake.
I was miserable inside, but felt like I couldn’t show it.
This is when disaster strikes.
Let’s stop making negativity the villain
Sadness, anger, guilt, resentment… these are not our enemies. It’s okay to feel them.
I didn’t always feel this way, of course.
Like most people, I used to suppress my feelings, stop myself from crying, and constantly numb myself with food, work, sex, and alcohol.
But only by removing the taboo of feeling and expressing negative emotions was I truly free to heal (and be myself).
Here are 3 reasons negative emotions are actually good for us.
1. They keep us authentic
Negative emotions tend to nag at us until we pay attention to them; they won’t disappear by themselves.
They let us know when something isn’t right – when we’ve done something we might need to apologise for, when we’ve allowed ourselves to be mistreated, or when we’ve witnessed an injustice.
Feeling bad helps us live a life that’s true to our authentic selves.
If you’re feeling bad, ask yourself:
- What is this emotion trying to tell me?
- What can I learn from this?
- How can I use this experience to help others, or to grow as a person?
2. They help us to heal
When we allow ourselves to process negative emotions, we give ourselves permission to heal our wounds.
Sitting with these feelings can be hard work, but it’s the only way to move on.
Constantly distracting and numbing ourselves (with smoking, junk food, alcohol, workaholism, technology, social media, sex, drugs), never works; they’ll only come back stronger.
If you’re trying to run away from your emotions, ask yourself:
- What am I trying not to feel right now?
- What strategies do I use to avoid feeling bad?
- How can I sit with this instead, and allow myself to feel it?
3. They show us how to grow
Feeling bad indicates we need to make a change in our life. It shows us where we feel pain right now, which helps us to choose our next direction.
If we’re feeling hopeless and dissatisfied by our work, for example, this could be a sign we need to make a career change to something more fulfilling.
We can only stew in our negativity for so long before we feel the urge to take action.
If you’re frustrated with your life, ask yourself:
- What is it about this situation I’m unhappy with?
- What does success in this area look like for me?
- How has this helped me become the person I am now?
Letting the negative emotions in
A quick and easy way to welcome negativity in is to affirm to ourselves, “I allow myself to feel whatever needs to be felt.”
You can also practice by asking yourself at regular intervals throughout the day:
- How do I feel right now?
- What do I need right now?
Remember, all our feelings demand to be felt (eventually).