25 Apr Sink or swim: a survival guide to negative emotions
We tend to think that stress, negative thoughts and emotions are a recent occurrence. I found it somehow comforting to recently read entire chapters dedicated to dealing with those same negative thoughts and emotions in a book written by an 8th century Buddhist monk and poet from India, Shantideva. The words seemed so real and contemporary as if spoken by a friend of mine today.
I noticed that we mainly tend to deal with negative emotions and thoughts in two ways. We either give in to the strong emotion such as anger, fear or sadness, then completely identify with it and sink into a place of darkness with no visible light at the end of the tunnel. The other way we often deal with negative thoughts or emotions is by repressing them and putting them to the back of our mind. This is a habit that most of us learn very young as small children, especially as we see that negative thoughts and emotions are frowned upon, considered weak, ugly and can cause frustration, irritation, sadness and pain in people around us.
As a Pranic Healing practitioner, I frequently come across clients who have a build-up of negative emotions from the past which, left untreated, can cause various health issues. Having dealt with that same challenge myself, I encourage clients to express their emotions, needs and wants to themselves, their work colleagues and their loved ones. A book which helped me tremendously in that process was Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Meditation has also given me a different perspective and helped me to identify less with my emotions and thoughts, to be able to observe them happening to a certain extent.
Here are some survival tips for the next time you feel overwhelmed by a strong negative emotion. Let me know how you get on!
- Don’t feel bad about it. It happens to everyone (yes even that “zen looking” meditation teacher you may admire) and has been for thousands of years.
- Acknowledge the emotion and feel it. Understand that this uncomfortable feeling is part of a process and that you will come out of it stronger and wiser!
- Describe the emotion to yourself, maybe write it down.
- Take time for yourself, even it is just for a few minutes, to acknowledge this challenging time, be kind, understanding and compassionate towards yourself. Breathe deeply from your abdomen, inhale relaxation and exhale the negative emotion. Treat yourself to some me-time, do something that makes you feel connected to yourself, whether it is a walk in the park, a quiet coffee on your own or a short meditation. Believe me, your loved ones will thank you for it!
- Try to formulate what you need in this situation, what you are missing. For example a friend or colleague was not there for you when you wanted, and you now feel lonely. In that case maybe contact a friend or a loved one who you know is there for you, reach out to them and share how you feel and what you need.
And remember that this is a lifelong practice, there is no quick fix solution but the good news is that it does get easier!