When was the last time you felt angry, judgmental, irritable, critical or jealous? A few hours ago? Minutes ago? While standing in the slow “10 items or less” line at the grocery store? Perhaps it was during a 20-second interaction with your child over what seemed to be a trivial matter….
Better yet, perhaps you have good reason for your negative feelings towards a situation or person but feel guilty about even having your feelings so you hide, trash or criticize them. Or, are you a master at feeling negative about a whole lot and don’t know (or possible care) about how to stop complaining or feeling upset?
It is human to feel…positive or negative.
I think about feelings sometimes as a feedback system that reflects the current state of being you. Though there are times when expressing what you are feeling may seem like a bad idea, your feelings are communication about how you are doing, in relationship to what is going on in your life. So, my question to you is, “what could you do to really listen to yourself so that you could begin to let go of your negative feelings? Is there something you can do to meet this need or have this need be met, either partially or fully? Is there something that you need on a relationship level that is not being met that you can talk to a friend or family member about? If it is too difficult to really hear your own needs, it may be all too familiar to place more responsibility for your feelings on others rather than tuning in and taking care of yourself. Is there something you need to do for yourself today that would decrease negative feelings you have about someone or something else?
This is where the whole notion of “expressing your feelings” comes from and why it is important. Though I understand that numerous people would beg to differ, regularly ignoring or holding back from expressing or feeling your feelings has consequences. Not having space to feel has the capacity to create distance between what you are doing and what you need emotionally, mentally, physically or even spiritually.
Some people are quite fluid at expressing themselves or “saying it like it is” but perhaps find it challenging to express intense negative feelings in non-destructive ways. By “non-destructive ways”, I mean are you expressing yourself in a way that does not hurt your communication with others, prevent authentic communication from others or bring harm to you, your relationships or your goals. Most of us know that deep down satisfaction of verbally taking revenge on someone else who has “hit a nerve” with you. But if your anger or irritability isn’t ultimately getting you want you really want aside from revenge, it’s probably worth considering a different way of communicating.
What would a different way of communicating look like? What would it look like to be assertive about your needs rather than aggressive? How would it effect you and your relationships if you used a calm but firm tone of voice when upset with someone rather than a condescending or insulting one?
On the other side of the spectrum, if you express yourself plenty but struggle with letting go of negative feelings, think of your feelings as meant to be “energy in motion” or e-motion. According to the Taoist view of emotions, they, like all else – are forms of energy that must flow freely. If you’re angry or upset, somehow, this e-motion must move through and out of your system, before it becomes a stagnant or stale source of feeling or energy in your body. The less you express your feelings freely, the more likely that those pent-up storages of old unexpressed feelings can lead to having a general “bad mood” that you just can’t shake, or even worse, long-term dis-ease.
In the end, if you have expressed yourself and have done the most you can in a bad situation, consider what you could do to change the way you are feeling. Take a moment to reflect on the gift of how children can move in and out of sheer joy and enthusiasm to pain and anger in a matter of seconds and forget all about what they were upset about minutes later. Physical activities, dance, singing, art, listening to music, talking a walk somewhere peaceful or beautiful or just breathing can all impact what you are thinking and thus feeling. If you don’t have time, consider how you would improve your overall experience of life and yourself if you had less prolonged experiences of negative feelings. Would positive things happen if you let yourself have more time feeling good? Can you take a step in owning more of your “response-ability” to your personal needs for the sake of feeling better more of the time?