The 4 Steps to Getting Unstuck from Negative EmotionsNone By Homaira Kabir
When things don’t go your way, resulting in negative emotions, what do you tend to do? Do you run for cover, avoiding the negativity and prompting the fight-or-flight response?
Or do you embrace the moment and see it as an opportunity for growth and connection? If it’s the former, you’re certainly not alone. Thanks to past scientific understanding—and a barrage of media messages—we’ve come to believe that stress has adverse health consequences and is to be avoided at all costs.
However, the latest research shows that it’s not stress, but our beliefs about stress, that can transform a difficult situation into one of harm or good. By viewing it as a learning opportunity, we can step back from the urge to turn away, and channel the surge of stress hormones in fruitful directions. Here are the four steps to see challenges as pathways to growth.
Recognize the Emotion
Emotions arise in our bodies before we hear them in our minds. See where you feel the negativity in your body—is it tight in your shoulders, your hands, or perhaps your belly? Breathe into the area, and as you do so, name the emotion, so that you create distance from it. Simply saying something like "I'm experiencing the feeling of shame right now" can take the edge off the emotion and lessen its power over you.
Self-compassion is the warm embrace that reminds us that we're safe, and the gentle voice that makes us feel understood. Some of us carry the belief that self-compassion is weak, even though it's anything but. It is what helps us stand our ground when everything within us is urging us to run away. And research by psychologist Paul Gilbert shows that it is precisely self-compassion that gives us the courage to do the right thing. Think of what your own kind voice would say to you when you feel let down by life. Then obey it!
All emotions remind us of our needs, our boundaries, and the values we hold dear. But they are also tied to the stories that have grown with us over the years. When these emotions are negative, we need to listen closely, so we know whether a value needs to be upheld—or a self-defeating story needs to be dismissed. If we do this without self-judgment, there is so much we can learn about our own selves. And that’s an exciting pursuit!
Marcus Aurelius once said, "What stands in the way becomes the way." Let the negativity guide your actions. Let it help you decide the steps you need to take in order to live according to your values...or the steps that will help you course-correct your way back to the life you want to live. Perhaps you need to take more time to connect with family, or pursue that creative endeavor you've always dreamed of. Perhaps you need to let go of the desire to please everybody all the time, or learn to accept the beauty of your human imperfection. The next time you find yourself caught in a negative loop, reach out and befriend your emotion instead. You'll discover the freedom of emotional agility, as well as the joy that comes from flowing smoothly through this vast experience of life—and the emotional storms that come with it.
Homaira Kabir is a positive psychology coach and cognitive behavioral therapist. She offers courses and coaching to help women develop the self-confidence and inner strength to identify and achieve their biggest and boldest goals. You can take her free quiz on learning to grow authentic self-worth at her website.
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