Negative emotions can seem overwhelming if you’ve never been taught how to control or process them.
We’re conditioned to believe that emotions just “happen” to us and we all have to deal with them no matter how terrible they make us feel.
The truth is, you are the one who decides what you feel and how you feel it. Emotions aren’t the boss of you, and you can decide to discard negative emotions at any time.
Understanding that you have the power to process negative emotions is the first step.
Whenever you feel the onset of turbulent emotions, run through this quick mental checklist in your head:
- Do you want to feel this way?
- Does feeling this way benefit you in any way?
- Have you thought about the situation from an outsider’s perspective?
Each of these points is important, because they involve self-reflection.
Mindfulness works so well in processing emotions because the conscious act of separating your Self from your ego is powerful. It shows you everything in a more accurate, balanced light.
Let’s go over each point and analyze the ramifications.
Do You Want to Feel This Emotion?
Not very many people even stop to ask themselves if they want to feel a negative emotion or not. They just let it happen.
The idea that you have a choice in the matter may come as a shock, but you do.
Emotion is controlled by the mind. It is a mind-body reaction governed by your perspective.
It is important to note that most of the physical sensations we associate with emotion are caused by hormones and neurotransmitters working on the body.
Your mindset, however, dictates when and how the brain releases these hormones and fires these neurotransmitters.
It’s all in your power to control. Like it or not, your emotions are your responsibility.
This is both empowering and daunting depending on how you look at it.
If you are angry, depressed, or anxious, it can feel like a slap in the face to be told that you are responsible for your emotions.
But you are.
You have either consciously or subconsciously decided to give up control of these emotions and let the ego filter everything for you. This leads to emotional imbalance over time, because the ego tends to distort everything.
Your brain will release hormones and fire its electro-chemical signals based on what the ego thinks is real or important, not on what is actually real or important.
This is what causes people to be irrationally depressed and angry.
Just as you gave your emotions control, however, you can just as easily take it back with self-reflection.
Ask yourself, do you want to feel this emotion?
Sometimes this exercise can be difficult in the heat of the moment, so practice when you aren’t in an emotional situation.
Question your emotions. Put them through interrogation.
What purpose do they serve? Do you want them around? Do you think you are justified in feeling them, even if they cause you and other people harm?
Mindfulness will show you the answer to these questions, and will help you process the emotions before they take control.
Does Feeling a Certain Emotion Benefit You?
If this sounds selfish to you, it’s only because you have been conditioned to think emotions are for the benefit of other people.
The thought that we should only feel emotions that help us rather than hurt us seems alien, almost fantastical.
Imagine not having to put up with other people trying to make you depressed, anxious, worried, sad, or angry?
You don’t actually have to put up with the emotional games other people play through their egos.
It’s the expected norm that when others around us are depressed, we’re supposed to share in their depression. When people around us are angry, they expect you to be angry with them.
It’s just how society wants you to be. You are much easier to control if you are in a flight or fight mode.
This holds true for everything from politics to product marketing and everything in between.
So much of our culture hinges on you being an emotional rag-doll that can be easily tossed around and made to be either anxious or excited on a whim.
Does this sound like a recipe for contentment and a happy life to you?
Of course not. In truth, it sounds like hell.
Always ask yourself, does an emotion benefit you? Don’t be bullied or conned into feeling an emotion you don’t like.
This goes double for emotions that you are clinging to out of a sense of purpose, despite how crappy they make you feel. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that the anger you are holding on to makes you feel horrible and that you don’t like it anymore.
Tell this to yourself. Say it out loud if you have to: “I don’t need to feel this way anymore. I forgive myself.”
Sound kind of cheesy? You would be surprised at how many emotions we cling to because we’re secretly upset with our own behavior. It’s a guilt thing.
Remember, if an emotion doesn’t make you feel good, ask yourself seriously why you would want to bother feeling it.
When you speak it, your subconscious begins to listen. Over time, it will get the hint.
What Would Someone Else Do?
Negative emotions can often arise out of a sense that our personal identity has been wronged somehow.
This is usually an illusion however, because we are not the ones that have been wronged. It’s our egos.
When you feel yourself reacting negatively to a situation, take a second to ask, how would a perfect stranger react in this situation?
Do they hold the same grudges as you? Would they care as much as you about something so small?
Better yet, frame the situation with you as the outsider and a perfect stranger in your position.
Would you think they are silly for overreacting? Would you try to calm them down or hold them back from doing something stupid?
Most of all, would you feel secondhand embarrassment or regret for them?
This is usually the most powerful self-reflection trick. Nothing works as a deterrent quite like embarrassment.
And to be truthful, out-of-control emotions are typically embarrassing.
There’s nothing graceful about shouting, foot-stomping, door-slamming, huffing, puffing, angry-crying, passive aggressive behavior, or jealousy.
This stuff can make a grown adult appear to outsiders like a whiny little toddler who messed his pants.
Ask yourself, is this how you want to conduct yourself?
Be mindful of your presence. More people are watching than you know, including your Self.
When you react negatively to a situation, your subconscious takes note and will begin to feel guilty. This creates negative feedback loops over time.
It’s one of the main reasons why the origins of so much aggressive and depressed behavior is in personal guilt.
The Proven Mindfulness Formula
You have to get rid of the guilt. You have to take responsibility for your emotions. Just a little bit of self-reflection will transform you.
- Forgive yourself.
- Tell yourself it’s okay to let go of any lingering guilt over your behavior.
- Remind yourself that you are in control of your emotions and you have the right to only feel emotions that benefit you.
Don’t wait until your angry or upset to practice this mindfulness formula. Start now.
It sounds redundant but in order to process your emotions you have to work on them. Practice self-reflection and probe the reasoning behind why you allow yourself to feel certain things.
You will find that a lot of what we tell ourselves falls apart under any scrutiny. The more you reflect on the whys and hows of your emotions, the less power they will have over you in the heat of the moment.
Even something as simple as telling yourself “it’s okay to be happy” can transform you.
I’ve had people tell me that they can’t just “be” happy. Of course, such a notion is absurd since we are all in full control of our emotions.
The difference is, they have a mental block and believe they don’t have the right to be happy. Being depressed or anxious is a part of their identity.
So they can’t just tell themselves to “be happy.” First, they must tell themselves it’s “okay to be happy.”
Remind your Self on a regular basis that it’s okay to be happy. You have the right to feel emotions that fill you with elation and purpose rather than anger and anxiety.
You will begin to realize over time that you had the power and control all along.
The founder of Digital Sages, Matt has an extensive background in self-mastery and has authored several books on the subject. His goal is to demystify important esoteric subjects and help people transform their lives through self-awareness and personal empowerment.