How do you deal with unwanted negative emotions?


What do we do when we experience unwanted negative emotions? Especially if they are intense. There are many more ‘negative emotions’ than positive emotions. Negative emotions range from mildly uncomfortable to deeply upsetting and distressing. Most of us react with fear to strong negative emotions – negative emotions can make us feel as though we are out of control, as though our emotion controls us in that moment. Feeling out of control is very scary.

When my late husband was ill, locked in his own body, unable to move or speak, I felt very much out of control. I did not know if he would live or die. My emotions were as intense as an elastic band stretched to its outermost limits. I had absolutely no idea what our future as a family would hold. I was in a continuous, never relenting state of emergency. My body was actually in a continuous fight or flight mode, which put enormous pressure on my body. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Going to the hospital for several hours each day and raising two primary school aged children who were dealing with their father’s distressing illness was a juggling act. This was an extreme situation, but life  throws many different experiences in our direction that evoke strong emotions in us. As human beings, we are emotional beings. Without emotions we wouldn’t be who we are.

I’d like to share this video of Nick Vujicic, an extra–ordinary 29 year old Australian man who was born without arms or legs. Coming to terms with his disability during school years was very difficult for Nick. He even contemplated suicide at the young age of 10. He changed the way he viewed himself after reading a newspaper article about a man with a severe disability as he  realised that he could make a difference though his uniqueness.  At only 17 Nick founded his own non-for-profit organisation called ‘Life without Limbs’.  After obtaining a university degree with a double major in accountancy and financial planning, Nick became a motivational speaker who travels the world. He addresses schools and corporate audiences.



Don’t you think that Nick would experience some pretty intense emotions? Irrespective of his incredibly positive attitude towards life, his every day life entails struggle. He cannot brush his teeth, tie his shoelaces, go to the toilet on his own… Now sometimes that would have to be frustrating or upsetting.

What do you do if you feel an unwelcome emotion? The most beneficial way that will support your emotional wellbeing is to engage with your emotion. By this I mean, you stop (if it’s possible) and give yourself a bit of time to be aware of the emotion you are feeling. If you have the opportunity, you may wish to pay attention to your body, to notice where you hold tension. Once you have become aware of your physical reaction, and have allowed the emotion to surface, it will dissipate.


Here is the thing about unwelcome and frightening emotions: once you genuinely allow an emotion to express itself, that is to say you really feel that emotion, it will disappear. It is only your resistance that will lock that emotion into your body and emotional body. What is surprising in this process is that you don’t have to feel an emotion for a long time for it to go away. Most people are generally not aware of this. That moment of feeling your emotion can be very short. What matters is that you feel it without resistance. That is the key to unlocking your emotion. You allow your emotion to be. This is the path to emotional healing and genuine wellbeing.