How we screwed up the point of why emotions exist and how to use them to our advantage
Important: Stop labeling emotions as "negative," "good" or "bad."
Author: Puja Trivedi Parikh, LCSW, BCBA
Picture from Pexels
First, take a deep breath!
When we experience difficult emotions, it can be tempting to try to avoid them. However, this is not the best strategy. Complex emotions are a natural part of life, and they can provide us with essential insights and growth opportunities if we learn how to work with them effectively.
What are difficult emotions?
Difficult emotions are any emotions that are uncomfortable or challenging to experience. They can include feelings such as anxiety, sadness, anger, and frustration. I think that most people have accepted emotions as being bad or good; I believe that emotions are powerful guides that can illuminate how we think and avoid things on a much deeper level. Difficult feelings may be regarded as negative because they are unpleasant, but they may also be seen as beneficial since they allow us to learn more about ourselves.
Why do difficult emotions occur?
Difficult feelings have a variety of causes. They might be provoked by a traumatic event or actions that promote self-improvement and the achievement of intended results. Your emotions are a result of how you interact with your environment, what you think, what social norms and expectations you have, and your life experiences. Feelings have functions that allow you to understand your life’s purpose and values so that you can align your actions with them. Emotions that are more intense than others are excellent indicators of where you should concentrate your attention in order to better understand yourself and future steps in life.
How to use difficult emotions to your advantage
Difficult feelings can be challenging, but they can also provide us with important insights and growth opportunities if we learn how to work with them effectively. When we learn how to work with our difficult feelings, they can provide us with valuable insights that can help us grow emotionally.
The following situations illustrate how you may make the most of your feelings by taking what you learn from them to create meaningful and intentional choices in life.
Personal Events (relationships, social, milestones, goals)
if you’re arranging a wedding, which is generally a joyful event, you may still be anxious. In this situation, the stress and nervousness motivate you to act in order to get things done and enjoy your wedding. Alternatively, the tension and worry might be a sign that you are not yet prepared to marry or continue your current relationship — very helpful to figure out before you say “I Do.”
Consider this scenario: you read a social media post about someone who has just reached the top of Mt. Everest, and you are dissatisfied or annoyed, even if you don’t know the individual. If your emotional response or feeling has anything to do with wanting to achieve the same goal or revisiting why you haven’t been able to reach it [for example, health concerns, no time or resources], this might be a fantastic moment to figure out why that is so, in order to create a strategy for you to achieve your ambition.
Let’s say promotions are announced and you didn’t get one as you had anticipated. However, a close colleague with similar background and experience as you received the promotion instead. When you first hear the news, it’s natural to feel dejected, angry, and furious. While, [assuming you’re happy for your coworker], it’s understandable to be sad, perplexed, and worried about your career prospects. These feelings can be a confirmation that you enjoy what you do and where you work. It’s not about your colleague’s success but rather understanding when and how you can find yours. A candid conversation with your boss can be helpful in creating a new plan to achieve your career goals. You may also be relieved if you don’t get the promotion because it would have meant taking on more duties or working on activities you dislike. This could confirm that you are pleased with your current situation or that you want to pursue other options that appeal to you.
The benefits of using difficult emotions effectively
When you accept unpleasant facts and difficult emotions, it can lead to change in your life and the lives of others. Many inventions, innovations, and socially conscious and impactful organizations and businesses have been founded by individuals who have experienced difficult emotions on their journey. Instead of avoiding the emotions of failure, sadness, humiliation [making some assumptions here] experienced as a result of failed launches or success initially, they acknowledged and accepted them and used the information to lead to success. We wouldn’t have cars, airplanes, medicines, technology, or fire [maybe?] if people didn’t use challenges and difficulties as learning curves to fuel the best possible outcomes in life.
It will take some effort to bring difficult feelings and distressing situations into your life, especially if you’ve been avoiding them for a long time. It’s not impossible to begin working on how you respond to these things, however. But the key is to simply begin and give it a try. Accepting — not avoiding — tough emotions and experiences in life is the first step.
What are some common causes of strong emotions for you? Comment below with your thoughts (even if they have nothing to do with my question). I’m really interested to know! (P.S. for me, it’s writing an article and hitting the “Publish” button)