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Why embracing negative emotions is important to happiness

BY Dr Lisa Turner

9th Apr 2024 Life

3 min read

Why embracing negative emotions is important to happiness
Toxic positivity is a problem and we can't always be positive. Here's why embracing negative emotions can improve your happiness in the long run
It can often feel like the pressure to always be happy and positive is ever-increasing. This toxic positivity has resulted from the perception and labels associated with negative emotions. It is encouraging everyone to always ‘be positive’ that is the real danger. Abstaining from negative emotions and not allowing yourself to feel in the long run only prevents us from addressing the problem and enabling healing.
Dr Lisa Turner, Emotional Resilience expert and founder of CETfreedom, shares why you need to embrace negative emotions to be happy long-term and not get caught into toxic positivity.

Embrace negative emotions

Unfortunately, our problems will not be solved through positive thinking alone. Positive thinking will not heal our problems and the act of suppressing negative thoughts in this way is not the same as removing it permanently.
Negative emotions arising from our present circumstances indicate underlying issues that need addressing and if understood serve as signals prompting us to take necessary action.

Negative emotions can steer us

Sad man with head in hands
Certain emotions can either aid or obstruct us, depending on the context. While some emotions are beneficial, others may be inappropriate and unproductive. Ultimately, all emotions serve as feedback mechanisms, indicating whether we are progressing towards ("getting warmer") or moving away from ("colder") our desired outcomes. Facing these is important to achieving true happiness.
"All the negative emotions that we feel are either a resistance to love or an attempt to hold on to love"
In fact, all the negative emotions that we feel are, ultimately, either a resistance to love, or an attempt to hold on to love.
The five most common categories of negative emotions are:
• Anger: what we feel when love is withheld, when we don’t get the love we deserve, or when someone does something unloving.
• Sadness: what we feel when we lose something, or someone, we love.
Fear: what we feel when we think we will, or might, lose love or that we are not loved.
• Hurt: what we feel when love is withheld or when our attempt to give love is rejected.
• Guilt: what we feel when we think we did not love another enough or we did something unloving.
When we understand why we are feeling these emotions, we are in a stronger position to challenge and change them.

Stop looking for external drivers of happiness

Evidence has shown most people have a set point of happiness dependent on their environment. We must stop looking for external drivers of happiness, such as having the latest gadgets, winning the lottery or having the “perfect” relationship.
"We must stop looking for external drivers of happiness, like having gadgets or the perfect relationship"
To overcome this short term, superficial happiness we need to look inside. Not through affirmations but a conscious awareness, in a flow where mind and body are immersed in the present.

Enhance emotional Intelligence

The development of emotional intelligence serves as a guiding light, enabling us to not only recognise and comprehend our own emotions but also navigate the emotional landscapes of others.
This skill empowers us to navigate complex social scenarios, cultivate robust relationships, and make well-informed decisions, enhancing the tapestry of our lives. This includes being aware of our negative emotions and taking proactive steps to tackle these.

It is OK to not be OK

Older woman knitting with a cup and pot of tea next to her
Regardless of the severity or challenges of a situation, with toxic positivity, we must always uphold a positive mindset. This needs to be challenged because this mindset is setting you up to fail, It is in fact OK to not be OK. It is OK to feel whatever emotion you are feeling.
Not only is it OK to not be OK. Those emotions that we label as “negative” are there for a reason. When we are moving away from what we want, or towards what we don’t want it is perfectly appropriate to feel a negative emotion.
"Those emotions that we label as 'negative' are there for a reason"
Another cause for feeling negative is because we have actually been so high on positive emotions. After our nervous system has been flooded with all the feel-good neurotransmitters the receivers become saturated and the emitters become depleted. We have to reset. So we need to learn to love that resetting process. Meditation, quiet contemplation, simple tasks such as cleaning or crafting, and simply resting in a low-stimulation environment is essential for our wellbeing.

When to address a negative emotion

It is important to remember that these negative emotions are not only not a problem, they are also highly useful. They are life’s warning lights and alarm signals giving us vital feedback. However, when we find ourselves still feeling bad about something from the past and the feeling interferes with our life’s purpose and our capacity to experience joy and love, that’s a sign that something else is going on.
Our Emotional Response Cycle (what I call our emotional feedback warmer/cooler mechanism) is looping and failing to complete satisfactorily. When this happens, we suffer. We experience trauma in our neurology that we feel as pain.

Two causes of negative emotions

When we feel a negative emotion it’s important to recognise where it is coming from. There are two sources.
One is from events in the present, current circumstances and experiences can generate a negative emotion. This is to let us know that something is happening that we need to pay attention to and take action to make changes. The other source is from traumatic experiences in the past which are being triggered by events in the present.
It’s important to know the difference. You can’t resolve trauma with affirmations and positive thinking. A deep change process is required to heal the neurology.
Banner photo: Pressure to feel happy all the time is not healthy. Credit: Angel Lopez
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