How to Deal with Difficult Feelings

A reader asked me how to deal with his feelings of anger and hopelessness, and I can only imagine that question came at least in part from from the never-ending stream of positive posts that I and similarly inclined bloggers create. With this emphasis on being happy, sometimes we feel like there’s something wrong with us if we aren’t relentlessly cheerful.

Humans, though, were designed to experience a wide range of feelings: Happiness and joy are part of the equation, but so are fear, anger, hopelessness, and desperation. We should accept the “negative” feelings as a part of us, just like we accept the feelings we enjoy.  Pushing aside, ignoring, or hiding the feelings we don’t want to face only makes the situation worse over time.

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Why are we wired this way, to experience these negative feelings? Why haven’t we evolved beyond it?

Our negative feelings help us figure out when we’re off track.  If you’re feeling angry, for example, figure out what might be going in your life to cause it, and then do what you can to change the underlying situation. Yes, we also want to let go of the anger, but determining the root cause of it not only speeds up the letting go, it also helps prevent the situation from recurring.

I use anger as my example since anger is the go-to emotion for a lot of people when they’re confused or scared. Change, for example, is scary for a lot of people, and I know change used to make me angry because I felt like I couldn’t control what was going on.  If you find yourself getting angry, try to figure out if there is a different emotion that underlies the fear. Then from there, you can figure out what’s causing the sadness, the confusion, etc.

Sometimes you don’t really want to figure out the root cause: You just want to feel better. Esther and Jerry Hicks in Ask and It is Given introduce an effective system to move up your emotional ladder, eventually making your way to joy. It’s about adjusting and responding to your emotions, not “putting a happy face on it” as they discuss in one section of the book.

What do you do when you’re feeling sad, scared or angry?


How to Deal with Difficult Feelings — 3 Comments

  1. In “The Secret of Emotions” I suggest that our emotions tell us about the presence or absence of virtues in our lives. Anger tells us that we perceive a lack of justice in our lives or in a particular situation. If what you are feeling really is anger and not fear or confusion, then you can begin to look for the perceived injustice that has sparked it.
    Once you identify the perceived injustice, you can change your perception, remedy the injustice, or forgive the injustice.
    Likewise, hopelessness tells us that we are lacking hope, of course. In this crazy, unpredictable world, it is easy to lose faith in the future. Generalized hopelessness can be paralyzing, but if you can identify what it is you are hoping for, then you have a point of focus and can develop a path for action. Movement of any kind is empowering.