Afflictive or negative emotions are part of our emotional register. They act as real weights capable of stopping our growth, filling our minds with adverse and useless thoughts and eventually leaving us adrift. Naming and removing power from these states will help us move forward with greater integrity.
Envy, frustration, rage, resentment, guilt, disappointment… We all know the bitter taste of these states. We know what it feels like to live with them. If we feed them, we also know that they will eventually take up a huge space in our lives. So, as Dr. James Gross, a Stanford University psychologist and emotional management specialist, explains, afflicting or negative emotions are like “evil tendrils” that grow in the darkest areas of our world. to be.
Tendrils are climbing plants that tend to cling to anything they encounter in their path. Gross points out that the more power we give to these emotional states, the more tendrils will grow around us and eventually immobilize us. However, freeing oneself from them is not easy because it is not enough to tear them away so that they leave us.
Afflicting or negative emotions will stop growing when we stop feeding them. It’s as simple as that. To achieve this, learning to move forward with this type of internal process requires that we sow the seeds of self-regulation within ourselves.
Afflicting emotions have an important place in our life
We are aware that in emotional psychology, it is very common to attribute to afflicting emotions this negative and even “pathological” role. This is why there is no shortage of articles and personal help books intended to help us “eliminate or eradicate” these conditions. However, it should be noted that this idea is not completely correct.
As we have pointed out, these dimensions are part of our emotional register. We cannot tear off these “evil tendrils” if the earth, in its profound diversity, is known to be home to a large number of species. Dimensions as basic as sadness, fear, disappointment or rage are part of who we are, and such a thing cannot be eradicated. We cannot deny these emotions which define part of the essence of our being.
The key lies in two very simple aspects: understanding and regulating. Knowing that they exist, giving them a name, understanding and dealing with these negative emotions is the best thing we can do to regulate our behavior.
The witch who must have been invited
We all know the tale of Sleeping Beauty. In this traditional story, the protagonist’s parents organized a party to celebrate her birth. There were thirteen wise women in the kingdom, thirteen figures endowed with magical powers. However, only twelve of them were invited because the last one was characterized by its bad character and its wickedness.
She therefore did not receive an invitation. People thought she wouldn’t mind. However, the thirteenth woman, skilled in black magic, felt hurt. She cast a curse on the little girl as a punishment. One of the morals that we can detach from the classic Sleeping Beauty tale is that it was easier to live with these good fairies, these twelve amiable, optimistic, affectionate and joyful women.
Inviting the witch to the party, allowing this complex figure to sit alongside others would have been an act of inclusion and responsibility. The way she was treated is similar to what we do with afflicting emotions: we deny them and pretend they don’t exist. The result of such an act is almost always terrible and extremely harmful.
We forget that emotions, good and bad, are just guests. Some visit us, others leave… And, sometimes, the less pleasant invite themselves to our table, but we still owe it to ourselves to receive them and live with them. However, we must not give them too much power, nor allow them to stay too long …
Controlling afflicting emotions: the key to our well-being
Emotions must have adaptive value. In other words, they must allow us to adapt to each circumstance of our daily life. Thus, studies like the one conducted at the University of Maryland remind us that being skilled in emotional regulation enables us to act more effectively in any context and any social situation.
Therefore, we must learn to properly manage these complex internal dimensions. Going forward with them without prohibiting them, denying them or pulling them out of our emotional register is essential for our well-being. Now let’s see how we can achieve this:
- Afflicting emotions often appear with a somatic marker: physical discomfort, discomfort… We must detect them, just like the noise of these negative thoughts that accompany them.
- Try to understand why they appear and what they want to tell you.
- Give yourself time: go quietly with them. Meditation can help.
- Channel them and express them. Talk to someone, use therapeutic writing, play sports to release tension.
- Look for a strategy to solve them. Don’t tell yourself you’ll deal with this embarrassment tomorrow, be proactive with your emotions.
To conclude, let’s not forget this essential recommendation: afflicting emotions are just invited. When some arrive, others leave. Let us not give permanent spaces to these emotions which, in a short time, can take hold of our whole being.