Letting Go of Negative Feelings and Emotions

At times we all have those negative or “unwanted” feelings and emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger and the like, or feel bored and troubled– even depressed.   On other occasions, we have a generalized, uncomfortable feeling of angst.

These feelings prevent us from being aware of the beauty that is all around us and from recognizing opportunities that can vastly improve our lives emotionally, spiritually, creatively and financially.

Most people try to escape and run from these troublesome feelings, hoping they can leave them behind.

Unfortunately, such escape routes don’t really work—and for good reason. Our discomfiting feelings and emotions are an integral part of us.   Hence, when we try to run away from them, they simply follow us.

Indeed, the harder we try to “lose” them, the stronger they become and the worse we usually feel.

In Losing Control, Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us and How to Let It Go (Ebb and Flow Press, 2011), I refer to these unwanted feelings as our Personal Truths and explore how we can learn to let them go.  Here is an important key:

Before we can let go of negative feelings and emotions, we must first accept and process them.

This may seem counter-intuitive at first.  Why would we want to stay with something that we so badly want to be rid of?  Let me explain why.   Because these Personal Truths are part of who we are—at least at that moment—we need to “honor” them in some manner.   By that, I mean we must accept their existence and make an effort to process them.  When we do this, they begin to leave on their own accord.

To be clear, this does not mean that we should sulk or dwell on them; simply, that we must give them their “just due.”  However, in doing so, remember that,

Our feelings and emotions are not facts.

They are just feelings and emotions—nothing more, nothing less. Understanding this helps us to effectively accept and process them.   Here’s one helpful way you can do that:

1.   Stay with your pain and discomfort—even if for only a short while. Sense it, feel it—including physically–and accept that it is okay that you feel that way.

2.  Next, separate the objective facts and “truths” of the underlying issue or situation from the illusions and myths that your imagination and fears have conjured up.  It helps to write these facts and truths down and reflect or meditate upon them.

3.   Then be proactive by taking constructive steps based on the objective facts and truths that have been revealed to you.

For example, if you’re angry about what a friend said or did, rather than withdraw, brood or plot how you can get back at him or her, reflect on the real truths and “harms” in what was said or done, including what role you may have played in the matter. Then share these truths with your friend (preferably in person) and how they made you feel, but being careful not to accuse or judge.  Sometimes you will find that you misunderstood what was meant or intended. The important point, however, is that you will have accepted and processed your negative feelings, rather than trying to run from them.

The next time you are experiencing negative feelings and emotions, I encourage you to try accepting and processing them in a similar manner.  If you do, I am confident you will find that they will disappear much in the same way as when a defroster clears fogged windows.

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About Daniel Miller

Daniel A. Miller is a businessman, artist, poet and author of Losing Control, Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us and How to Let It Go (Ebb and Flow Press, 2011) and writes about control issues at losingcontrolfindingserenity.com

Comments

  1. Dawn Quinn says:

    great article – very helpful

  2. Hello Noel,

    Isn’t it interesting how we can learn so much about ourselves when we are able to embrace our discomfort.

    Wishing you well,
    Danny

  3. Hi Daniel, I attended a talk on depression before. The counselor actually advised that patient should first accept the fact that they are depressed. Don’t deny, struggle or fight against it, but to be calm, seek and learn what cause them the suffers, what’s the reason behind it. When we try to ‘befriend’ with the negative feelings, we understand more about ourselves and might find better ways to settle those emotions.

  4. i found this blog very useful and i will apply the next time im having discouraging thoughts. thanks alot for writing this i really do appreciate it. i agree with what you said as far as the steps i believe we should accept what were feeling and than think and than they will go. be in good spirits though…

  5. You are so correct – “feelings are not facts.” They just are. They are temporal, and with time, they change. So we must hold to the belief that in the right direction, we will find ourselves in a different place with a difference and new set of feelings. Thank you for the reminder.

  6. Hi Daniel,

    Thank you so much for this timely truth. I love the way you explained the acceptance of pain as supposed to running away from it. Pain causes growth.
    Accepting something as it is doesn’t mean you approve of it, it doesn’t necessarily mean you gave it your consent, permission, authorisation, sanction, agreement, sympathy, endorsement, confirmation, assistance…and so on and so forth, it doesn’t even mean you LIKE what it is. It’s just saying to yourself that “It is what it is and what it is.

    When you accept something for what it is; you relax…you find yourself able to let go of that breath you never knew you were holding and you actually become patient. Now everything looks different, and your perspective is changed, you’ll be looking at things from a new angle, and you have more “rational” choices to make.

    Thanks alot.
    Tunji.

    • Thank you for your insights,Tunji,

      Interestingly, Chapter Four of my book is entitled
      Accepting “What Is”, and you have described what it means so well.

      Danny

  7. This is all so very true. I have had problems with this all of my life. I have come to see that we really do have to stop and feel then emotion and go deeper and figure out what is causing it. If I can’t really figure out the root cause, I try visualizing the “worst case scenerio” and usually it is not anywhere as bad as the fear or worry.

    • Hi Sherry,

      I agree using a worse case scenario is highly effective in dealing with our unwanted feelings, particularly fear. Fear is the primary catalyst for what is quite often unhealthy controlling actions. In my book,
      I describe how to do worse case scenario exercises to effectively address and process financial hardships, parental fears and other anxiety provoking challenges we face.

  8. Great work, Danny. I especially like how you don’t jump to the typical “think positive thoughts” mantra. It’s crucial that we don’t deny who we are and that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings. Those feelings are trying to tell us something real. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Nice article. So true, as we get older, we learn over time when we fail or get hurt, to brush it off without giving it much thought am move on. While this might of been the thing to do when we were little, as we get older and as life get more complex, we need to get in touch with our feelings. We need to recognize that they are there to serve them. Once we learn to use them as a tool, we can then not only move on, but take some new insight with us.

  10. Hi Danny,
    There are no easy answers or quick fixes with many of our negative emotions. I think that you first have to accept that you have & wil get them. Asking questions like “how can this be improved?” & work through the answers. A mindset that ‘there’s always a positive’ can assist.
    be good to yourself
    David

  11. Hi Danny,
    This all does make logical sense and it is something that I have been very aware of for some time. I find it very interesting (particularly at the moment because I have had a bit of a bad day) how strong the emotions become and how at times I struggle to process them. When I get angry, I get very distracted and find concentration difficult. That in itself self perpetuates the problem. I tend to get a lot of irrational fear and also get very strong feelings of flight. Sitting with “it” is a real challenge. I feel it is important to strike a balance when looking at the truths, being aware that a “beating oneself up” can also self perpetuate and affect confidence and self esteem.
    Right now, I do feel angry about today and I’m in that period of processing all the emotion…. and yes it is uncomfortable, but I know I need to get through it.

    • Marty, thank you for your very personal post. I hope that the fact that you have so honestly shared your pain has allowed you to process it better.
      A couple of suggestions you might try: a friend I know is fond of saying, “I have the power to start my day over at any time.” I have found that simply by saying that, my mood becomes more positive. It can remove that feeling of being “stuck.” Another technique that has worked well for me is to try to “act as if” in the sense that I am going to act as if I am feeling better.

  12. Hi Danny, thanks for a great insight into emotions. For me Thought and Emotion are twins. That means that emotions can become the ‘voice’ of the myriad of thoughts running through your subconscious as well on the ‘one thought at a time’ conscious mind. So, I absolutely agree that negative emotions must be embraced and faced and used to trace the path to the (subconscious) thought pattern that is the source of the distress. Thanks again, Stephen

  13. Hello Ken,

    Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comment.

    I have indeed noticed how people react differently to similar circumstances.
    For me, the way I have learned to “smile” at difficult circumstances is to accept them for what they are, or “accept what is,” and that then allows me to focus on where my real power lies to improve my life.

  14. I appreciated this post, Daniel.

    Just like dealing with a giant mountain in our path, going through it is always the fasted route. Trying to go around or over it wastes gas and stresses the mechanics under the hood!

    Still, I have found that the best long-run help is not to avoid or ignore or run from our emotions, but to learn to change, literally, deeply, in the inside of who we are, what bothers us in the first place. Then we don’t HAVE to go through the mountains so often because there won’t be as many on our path.

    Have you ever noticed how the same set of circumstances can upset one and bring a smile to the face of the other? We can learn to smile at difficult circumstances and people more often so that we experience fewer of those unwanted feelings.

    But until then, whenever we do have those feelings creep up on us, you lay out a wonderful and simple and effective way of getting past them and experiencing life more fully.

    Thank you for sharing such valuable steps on Steve’s site, Daniel. Much appreciated!

  15. Martin Burrows says:

    Do you have to confront the issue with the person. How about a person that you just do not want to have any more contact with, what good would it be to confront them?

    • Certainly not, Martin. The example I used in the article involved a “friend” and wanting to maintain a friendship. It sounds like you are referring more to an acquaintance, and not a friend. Even then, however,
      an open discussion with that person may reveal something in your ways that contributed to the issue and that could be beneficial in your other relationships.

  16. Hi Daniel

    Welcome to CYT, it a pleasure having you here.

    I love this simple, but powerful tip you have shared today and it’s one that sounds easy to do but is quite hard. However, it does become easier the ore you do it.

    Thanks again Daniel, look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Thank you Steven for giving me the opportunity to participate in your enlightening blog. I agree that it becomes easier to process our unwanted feelings the more we do it. I feel that’s because the more we experience the positive results from doing so, the less resistance we have.

  17. Hi Daniel,
    I enjoyed this article. Thank you for the great tips.
    I agree that we need to face our emotions we are having and whether we contributed to the situation in any way. It always takes “two to tango” right? When we try to stuff emotions back down and not face them they pop up all around us in other ways to get our attention. Facing and dealing with the emotions is the only way to growth.

    • Hi Angela,
      It’s interesting that you use the words “facing and dealing” with respect to our painful emotions because I use very similar words, “facing and embracing” in my writings.

      I really enjoyed reading your recent post, “Finding Purpose in Pain”.

  18. Hi Daniel,
    It seems that the only way to get past negative emotions is through them. That’s the part that many of us want to avoid.

    I found that by being still and allowing and feeling the emotions, I can get past them much quicker.

    • Hi Justin,
      I like what you say about being “still.” Similarly,I have found it very useful (when I can remind myself)to simply “pause” for a few moments.
      That stops me from rushing through these uncomfortable feelings and emotions.

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