How to see negative emotions positively
We all sometimes experience negative emotions such as loneliness, dejection, resentment, anger or fear. When such emotions arise, we may let ourselves get carried away by them, till we sink into increasing negativity. Or we may run away from them by indulging in some immediate pleasures that eventually make things worse.
How can we avoid these extremes of getting carried away or running away? By approaching negative emotions as sources of information about the things that are important for us. Suppose we feel dejected because something we attempted failed. We can explore that emotion by asking ourselves: “Why exactly do I feel so strongly about this setback? Is this life-area itself important for me? Or is it important because this setback will leave me unable to fulfill a promise to a loved one? Or is it important because this failure reinforces my fear that I am incompetent?”
When we thus understand what we value so much, we can find appropriate means to address the underlying issue. If the life-area itself is important, we can seek other ways of pursuing that avenue. If a relationship is the key issue, we can seek other ways to invest in that relationship. If our self-esteem is at stake, we can seek other ways to do something worthwhile. Beyond such specifics, we can go deeper still to understand who we are essentially and what our core spiritual needs are.
The Bhagavad-gita begins with Arjuna overwhelmed by negative emotions that left him dejected (01.46) and teary-eyed (02.01). Gita wisdom helped him go deep within till he focused on the things that mattered the most, thereby recovering his composure (18.73).
See negative emotions as sources of information about what is actually important for us, and those very emotions can point us to positive life-changes.
Think it over:
- What are two unhealthy extremes in dealing with negative emotions?
- What is a balanced way of approaching negative emotions?
- Explore some negative emotion that regularly comes upon you. What can it tell you about the things that are important for you?
01.46: Sanjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.