I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.
~ Oscar Wilde
Ever felt like you are riding an emotional roller coaster? In a course of one day, you can experience a range of emotions - happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, nervousness, confusion, anxiety - you name it and you can feel it. It is important to recognize that pain is simply a natural wave in the flow of life. Negative emotions are undoubtedly the hardest to deal with, but they are just as much a part of life as the positive ones. The key is to understand that we must accept the bad with the good to be our happiest selves.
People tend to make two common mistakes when confronted with a negative emotion. Either they ruminate and obsess over the problem or try to numb their emotions.
Neither of these work. Rumination is deceptive because it feels productive to ‘think things through’. However, gratuitously obsessing over a situation that caused pain only reinforces the strength of the negative thoughts and emotions.
Numbing the emotions does not work either because it’s not possible to selectively numb an emotion. In other words, if you try to blot out your anger, you’ll blot out happiness and serenity along with it.
Avoidance of an experience does not allow us to find other ways to deal with it.
If we deal with sadness by using alcohol to numb ourselves we don’t learn to cope with sadness (and we potentially develop another problem with over use of alcohol).
If you’re experiencing a negative emotion right now, here are few strategies you can use to cope with it:
1. Drop the thoughts you are telling yourself: Instead of overthinking, turn your awareness towards your body. Feel the energy in your forehead, chest, gut and legs and then take few deep breaths. Now feel kindness and gentleness flow in your body and feel the energy in the same parts again. You’ll feel more relaxed.
2. Write out your feelings in a journal or notebook. It will help you to make a sense of and accept the experience. It may also trigger the path of analysis which may not have manifested internally.
3. Share your experience with a trusted friend: If writing does not appeal to you reach out to a friend.The buffer of social support increases feelings of confidence and trust, which help offset negativity.
4. Think about the suffering of others: Painful emotions like fear, grief or anger all have a claustrophobic effect. They can make us feel as if our suffering is unique. This feeling of alienation only serves to intensify pain. Upon contemplating that whatever you are feeling right now has been felt by millions of others, the same situation seems less daunting. Reflecting upon shared suffering also boosts your compassion, induces positive thinking and helps forge more meaningful connections with others.
No strategy can make a painful emotion disappear but by acknowledging how you feel about it, you can take action to deal with negativity in a productive way.
(Ruchi Mathur is a Psychoanalyst, Behaviorist & Healer. When she is not counseling, she passionately pursues her love for baking)