• janellegsheen

Choosing Emotions Reality Bite IV: There are No Negative Emotions!


Photo by Iván Acedo Unsplash

I constantly hear people talking about negative emotions. I understand people mean sadness and anger and the like. I do not believe these emotions are negative. They too have a purpose; just like those we call positive emotions, those we wish to experience. It is not the emotions that are negative; it is what we do with them that becomes negative, negative as in ‘taking away’. Any emotion can be negative in this sense.

Unfortunately more commonly the emotions we call negative are those we don’t wish to experience, those we wish to avoid. Today’s reality bite is that there is truth in this, BUT it is a twisted truth. The truth is emotions such as angry and sadness are an indication that something is not working for us, something is wrong, we are in some way heading to or are out of balance. So NO we don’t want to experience these emotions, or do we?



It is not the emotions that are negative;

it is what we do with them that becomes negative,

negative as in ‘taking away’.


The truth is we do. If we didn’t we would not know the critical information the emotions provide. The trick is we don’t want to experience these emotions for long. What we want is to experience the emotion, attend to its message and act on it, for our health and well being as quickly as possible. The truth is it is not the emotion that is negative, it is the inability to act effectively on an emotion’s message which results in a taking away, that is negative.


The inability to act effectively on our emotions is a lack of skill, usually as a result of lack of learning how to act on the emotion’s message. We can choose to learn these skills at any time. These skills are about caring and nourishment, about connection and respect. The emotions that are commonly called negative only become negative because we don’t know how to use them as a guide to look after our self and others.


The trick is we don’t want to experience these

emotions for long


We are commonly taught to ignore, deny and thus suppress many of our emotions. And this is not just those referred to as negative. Recently I experienced an environment where I was being trained not to have what we call ‘positive emotions’, happiness, even a sense of relaxation. Whenever I experienced these emotions others would take action to undermine my state. I have left that environment; it was not a respectful environment.


Photo By Dominik Lange Unsplash

It is important to understand what to ‘take away’ is. Firstly we tend to take away from the value of an emotion, then from our self, from another and even from our environment. By ignoring an emotion, suppressing it, denying it, pretending it is wrong we have taken away from the emotion. We take away the value of the emotions. The major problem with this is in doing so we have taken away from our self, breaking a connection with a part of our self, failing to respond to it and care for that part of our self. In addition we may decide we are less than who we are. This is a negative taking away process.


We could learn to develop our ability to

understand, respect and respond to

our emotions effectively.


Alternatively we may decide to claim what we need, desire and do so in such a way that takes away from others or our environment, which is to have no regard for them. This too is negative. It was not the emotion that is negative its how we act on the emotion that can be negative.


Consider anger. According to Kara McLaren in ‘Language of Emotions’ anger is a result of a broken boundary the message is ‘something needs protection and or restored’. Anger tells us to stand up for something, to protect. This is not wrong.


However If we suppress the anger, ignore it we have taken away from the emotion and our self, we have allowed another to take away from us, this is a negative process. Alternatively we may use that anger in such a way as to force another to do, as we want, taking away from them.


We could learn to develop our ability to understand, respect and respond to our emotions effectively. With respect. This skill is an art many of us have not been taught. With such skills we can understand and embrace all our emotions for the value they contribute.


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If you want to take action to build your Respectfulness, I highly recommend building your emotional intelligence. A couple of excellent starting points are:


1) Kara McLaren’s books. They help develop understanding and appreciation for emotions.


2) Practice paying attention to your emotions and asking what the message is. This is a skill with many aspects to consider, however asking the question is critical first step to building your emotional intelligence.


3) Once you are paying attention to your emotions it becomes valuable to consider how current the emotion is and if it truly yours. Especially prior to acting on it.


Respect Starts Here

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