In my professional practice I encounter men and women every day who are bound up in the proverbial chains of negative emotions. They are dragging their feet through life, weighed down by feelings of fear, jealousy, self-pity, anger, sadness, anxiety and rejection.
These chronic painful emotions are what often stand in the way of a person’s personal and professional success in life. Negative emotions can deplete you of energy and motivation, take away your joy and enthusiasm and keep you from pursuing positive goals for your life. It is very difficult to do well professionally or relationally if you don’t have a positive and realistic attitude and healthy emotions.
In order to begin breaking free from negative emotions, it is imperative that you possess an understanding of their underlying root causes. I would encourage you to be brave enough to take an honest look at what thoughts and behaviors might be creating and perpetuating the negative emotions that are bringing you down.
Here is a brief summary of four factors that often fuel negative feelings and tighten the “chains”:
- Justification – “I am only negative/jealous/anxious/irritable because of the bad things that happened to me or the way people treated me.” When you engage in justification you are consistently feeding yourself information that reinforces your negative feelings. You tell yourself that you are entitled to feel the way you do and consistently rehearse the explanations or reasons for why you are experiencing emotional pain. If you learn to stop justifying your negative emotions you will stop experiencing them. Learn to redirect your mental focus away from the self-defeating excuses you give yourself for staying stuck in your pain.
- Rationalization – “I need to come on strong and demand to have my way so other people will show me the respect I deserve.” Rationalization involves creating socially acceptable explanations for actions that are socially unacceptable. You rationalize to put a positive spin on something you have done that you feel guilty or bad about. Rationalization keeps you from taking responsibility for your feelings and actions thus convincing you that you have nothing to change. Rationalizing keeps negative emotion alive by permitting you to see yourself as the victim and everyone else as the bad guy. Until you stop rationalizing you will continue to be more vulnerable to negative emotion.
- Hypersensitivity – “I can’t believe my boss asked for changes to my report in front of the team. I was so embarrassed that I emailed the Human Resources to report how she demeaned me.” When you are overly concerned or hypersensitive to how people treat you, you are allowing your self-image to be influenced by how others speak to you or treat you. In other words, you will have little sense of self-worth or value apart from the opinions you believe others have of you. Whenever you experience disapproval or rejection you will be much more vulnerable to strong negative emotions associated with insecurity, inferiority and inadequacy. It is imperative that you understand that your self-worth and value are already established apart from what others think about you or how they treat you. They can only influence your feelings of worth and value if you choose to give them power that does not belong to them.
- Blame – “It isn’t my fault that I threw that plate against the wall. He just made me so mad!” The strongest source of prolonged negative emotion is the habit of blame. When you blame others for how you feel you relinquish control of your emotions. As long as your focus is directed toward how you have been mistreated or how bad your circumstances are you will fail to free yourself from your emotional prison. Remember, all blame is a waste of time and will only keep you from reaching your goals.
One theme permeates all of these attitude killers – they are evidence that you are holding on to experiences and resentments from the past, and they are affecting you long after the fact. The sooner you change your orientation from the past to the present and future, the sooner you will open up a reservoir of positive possibilities that will fuel joy, enthusiasm and optimism. Replace those negative statements with positive phrases like, “It’s my choice to make this situation better instead of worse.” Or “I am valuable whether that person realizes it or not. I know that opinions are not facts.”
Have you discovered ways to help you overcome negative attitudes and emotions? Has this blog given you any insight to an area you are currently struggling with? Sometimes we just need a new perspective!
Every person possesses the power to free themselves from the chains of negative emotion. It requires a conscious choice and willingness to cultivate new habits of thinking and behaving. If you are ready to invest the time and effort into the process you will begin loosening the shackles and moving toward greater satisfaction and fulfillment in life.
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Todd is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, published author, and national conference and seminar speaker. He has been a featured expert on national and local radio talk shows and television news programs.