Negative Emotions Part 1
We all experience emotions from an early age. As adults attempting to navigate the often-chaotic world of modern life, the range of emotions we experience in a day can vary dramatically and our ability to feel and respond to our emotions is often taken for granted. We rarely stop to think and pay close attention to what we are feeling. Most people do not consider the impact that emotions have on our mental and physiological states or the long-term implications of holding onto emotions that may be harmful to us.
In this article, which I will break up into different parts, we will take a deep dive into emotions - specifically negative emotions - what causes them, the effects of them, and how we can change them to create a greater sense of well-being.
Emotions vs. Feelings
It is important to distinguish between what an emotion is and what a feeling is. While the two are interconnected, there is a larger difference than what you may realize.
Emotions are regarded as ‘lower level’ responses. They first occur in the subcortical areas of the brain such as the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortices. These areas are responsible for producing biochemical reactions to events and memories that have a direct impact on your physical state.
Emotions are coded into our DNA and are thought to have developed as a way to help us respond quickly to different environmental threats, much like our ‘fight or flight’ response. The amygdala has also been shown to play a role in the release of neurotransmitters that are essential for memory, which is why severe emotional memories are often stronger and easier to recall.
Emotions have a strong physical impact and can measured objectively through physical cues such as blood flow, heart rate, brain activity, facial expressions, and body language.
Emotions are seen as preceding feelings, which tend to be our reactions to the different emotions we experience. Whereas emotions can have a more generalized experience across all humans, feelings are more subjective and are influenced by our personal experiences and interpretations of our world based on those experiences combined with our frame of reference. Feelings occur in the neocortical regions of the brain and are the next step in how we respond to our emotions. Because they are so subjective, they cannot be measured the way emotions can.
Psychologists have long explored the range of human emotions of which there is a vast array.
My research has revealed the following to be the main kahunas that impact people negatively and are therefore those that I remove during the first stage of Negative Emotional Therapy®
Other negative emotions that I have identified that prevent people from unlocking their true potential are:
|1. Shame||8. Hate||15. Emptiness||22. Nervousness|
|2. Worry||9. Hopelessness||16. Rejection||23. Abandonment|
|3. Apathy||10. Jealousy||17. Resentment||24. Despair|
|4. Grief||11. Envy||18. Regret||25. Feeling Unworthy|
|5. Frustration||12. Feeling Depressed||19. Desperation||26. Pain|
|6. Rage||13. Feeling Irritated||20. Feeling Worthless||27. Suppressed Pain|
|7. Anxiety||14. Loneliness||21. Feeling Powerless||28. Lack of Feeling|
Negative emotions can be described as “an unpleasant or unhappy emotion which is evoked in individuals to express a negative effect towards an event or person.” Remember it is important to acknowledge that all emotions are completely normal to experience from time to time as they are ingrained in our DNA. It is even more important to understand when and why negative emotions might arise and to develop methods to counter them before they are repressed.
Research and Studies
The more research has tried to understand our emotions, the more it has revealed the distinction between positive and negative emotions, and the impact of each on our mental and physical wellbeing. Remember that humans have been designed to experience emotions. Problems however arise when any specific emotion becomes chronic and interferes with our functioning or leads to psychosomatic disorders.
Experiencing negative emotions from time to time is thus completely normal. Without them, we would not be able to appreciate positive ones. If you however find yourself inclined to regularly experience a particular negative emotion it may be necessary to explore why this may be.
Below are some negative emotions with a brief explanation of why they arise.
Has someone ever prevented you from doing something that you had a burning desire to do? Recall how it made you feel. If your blood began to “boil”, your temperature started to rise and you metaphorically ‘saw red’? This is commonly how anger is described. Your body is reacting to things not going your way, and it is an attempt to try and rectify that.
Do you tend to speak louder or even shout when you are angry? Does your face register your anger and do you throw or kick things? Do you try to have things your way and do you get angry if you do not? Do you regard your opinion to be the only valid one and do you get angry if others have a different view? If you are often reacting to scenarios in this way, it may be a good idea to explore why and come up with more positive strategies.
Fear is often cited as one of the core basic emotions, and that is because it is heavily linked with our sense of self-preservation. It is an evolved response to warn us about dangerous situations, unexpected obstacles, or failures. We do not experience fear to create stress, but rather to help us navigate out of potentially dangerous situations successfully.
Embracing the emotion of fear and exploring why it arises can help you prepare yourself proactively to tackle challenges.
Guilt is a complex emotion. We may experience guilt about ourselves and our past actions as well as about how we and our behaviour have impacted upon those around us. Guilt is often referred to as a ‘moral emotion’ and can be a strong catalyst to encourage us to make changes in our lives.
Like guilt, apathy can be a complex emotion. If you have lost enthusiasm, motivation, or interest in the things you have previously enjoyed, this could be related to apathy. Like anger, it can arise when we lose control over a scenario or situation but instead of becoming angry, we pursue a more passive-aggressive expression of rebellion.
Have you ever tried to achieve a certain task or goal multiple times and not succeeded? Did that make you feel like throwing your hands in the air, and camping out in bed with a large tub of ice cream for company? That is despair and it is an emotion that arises when we do not get the results we want. Despair gives us an excuse to give up on our desired goals and can become a self-preservation tactic. It can actually be a useful reminder to take a break and plan our strategy before continuing to pursue a challenging goal.
What Causes Negative Emotions and Why Do We Have Them?
Once you start exploring negative emotions a bit more, you will see what causes or triggers them, and why we have them in the first place.
In terms of causes, there could be a variety of things that cause negative emotions such as:
• Anxiety felt around attending an interview for a new job
• Anger at being cut off in traffic
• The sadness felt due to experiencing a breakup
• Annoyance that a colleague has not done the work for a big project
• Despair at not being able to stick to one’s plans
Many different experiences in our lives will incite different emotional reactions, to differing degrees of intensity. As a human being, you will experience a full range of emotions throughout your lifetime in response to rapidly changing situations.
Do We Want to Overcome and Stop Negative Emotions Altogether?
In a nutshell, no. It is normal for us to want to move away from emotions that make us feel bad. As an evolutionary response, negative emotions in the modern world are not really an indication of a severe threat against us, but overcoming and stopping them altogether would be hugely detrimental to us. Negative emotions are a normal, healthy, and helpful part of life. I think it is really important not to fall into the ‘happiness trap’ of believing that emotions are a sign of weakness or low emotional intelligence. I know from personal experience that trying to hide away from negative emotions, can lead to further emotional pain. As a human being, you will experience a full range of emotions throughout your lifetime in response to rapidly changing situations. No emotion is without purpose. It is when we begin to further explore and understand the purpose behind each emotion, that we learn new ways to respond which supports our emotional growth and sense of well-being.
It is important to know that negative emotions are a source of information you have access to. Before you act upon any emotion you should seek to first explore your previous experiences, stored knowledge and memories, personal values, and desired outcomes for any given scenario that triggered the emotion. Learn how to positively respond to your emotions and do not allow them to hijack your behaviour.
Upcoming Next Blog: How Negative Emotions Affects Us