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.
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.