The Surprising Benefits of Negative EmotionsBy Homaira Kabir
I grew up with an excessive idolization of happiness.
It was partly because of my upbringing. My parents, who had undoubtedly seen many hardships in their lives, were deeply grateful for everything they had, and baffled when we children were sometimes unappreciative of our lot. “Be happy” became our family mantra, further strengthened by a societal compulsion to don the smiley face.
As I got older, I struggled with my negative emotions. I had a hard time accepting them as part of my inner world, or moving past them without getting spun into a downward spiral. And I struggled even more to sit with my children's negativity, fighting hard to banish it in all its forms from our lives. Needless to say, it was a losing battle.
It took me a long time to understand that all emotions evolved for a purpose. And while the more positive ones open us up to life and build our inner resources, as shown by Barbara Fredrickson's “broaden-and-build theory”, it's the negative ones that often help us connect to our deepest values and remind us to step into our most authentic life.
Here are 4 less-understood emotions that may hold important lessens for your journey to self-discovery.
Anger is usually thought of as an immoral emotion, the result of underdeveloped urges that we have little control over. However, anger can also point us to what we value, and can prompt us to stand up to injustices not only to ourselves but in our social circles, workplaces, and communities. Research has shown that we're even motivated to wish revenge on transgressors of fictional Hollywood films. I, for one, can vouch for that!
Disgust evolved as a response to something revolting in taste in order to keep us safe from harmful foods, but later expanded to also condemn social transgressions. As such, disgust, like anger, can have pro-social tendencies, in that it ostracizes individuals who engage in culturally inappropriate behaviors.
Envy feels deeply negative, and it definitely hu