We go through a whole gamut of emotions everyday, each with varying degrees of intensity and duration. Most of us are very comfortable with expressing our positive emotions. At the same time, we tend to struggle dealing with our negative emotions. I still have a hard time expressing myself when it comes to negative feelings. I tend to bottle-up which could lead to a point where I end up “exploding” or acting out in a way that is not so nice. Others tend to withdraw, want to be alone.
It’s not negative emotions that directly impact our health and well-being, but how we react and process them when we do experience them that really counts. The good news is that with practice, everyone can do a better job of dealing with their negative emotions in healthy ways. A long time back I came across this lovely mnemonic to deal with uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings/emotions.
Step 1: Pause
Rather than act on your feelings right away, stop yourself and think things through.
Step 2: Acknowledge
Identify and accept what you are feeling. It is ok to feel anger, irritation, sadness, fear.
Step 3: Think
Now that you have had a few moments to figure out what you are feeling, think about why you are feeling this way and what is the best way to respond to make you feel better. Very often, we may feel negative emotions based on our assumptions of a situation. Being very objective here helps.
Step 4: Help
Take an action to help you feel better based on the previous step
I still remember my first few days with the Jesuits. Fr. Philip Terrasa SJ, my spiritual guide, asked me what am I feeling and it took me forever to identify exactly what I was feeling. In step 2, identifying what you are feeling could be difficult. Here is Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions which helps me.
As you can see, Plutchik paired the basic emotions with their polar opposites.
- Sadness is the opposite of Joy
- Anticipation is the opposite of Surprise
- Anger is the opposite of Fear
- Disgust is the opposite of Trust
Plutchik’s wheel is a strong visual representation of how our emotions present themselves. As you can see the core emotion decreases as you move outward on the wheel. Plutchik also used color to represent the intensity of the emotion: the darker the color, the more intense it is. So at its most intense trust becomes admiration, and at its least intense, acceptance.
I think that this is a fantastic starting resource for helping us further develop our understanding of how our emotions present themselves, how they fluctuate and how they can interact with each other.
Negative emotions are an extremely important part of our existence. Be open to them, embrace their part in your life and learn to incorporate them in proactive ways.
Take control by responding rather than reacting using P.A.T.H., and I’m confident you’ll find new ways of approaching these emotions with authenticity and positivity! ❤️