How often do you feel like negative emotions are running your life? They get set off or triggered by some unfortunate circumstance, someone treating us poorly, us treating ourselves poorly, and a slew of other things. Sometimes these negative emotions just roll in like a fog, with no discernible reason, and they just sit there, making visibility limited or impossible. Sometimes these negative emotions come hurtling out of nowhere like a violent storm, where we can’t tell up from down, left from right, and when the storm passes, we’re left to sift through the wreckage. This is the follow up to last week’s post about handling difficult situations.
Picking up where we left off last week, we are going to get a little more specific and make it even easier to handle difficult situations. Most difficult situations come with a difficult emotion that only compounds the struggle we are facing. This process is from the Tony Robbins video I posted last week (and at the end of this post), and it aligns with several therapeutic methods that I use, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness, and principles from neuroscience. Let’s get started:
1. Identify what the emotion is. What am I really feeling? When we encounter difficult, hard to handle, or negative emotions, we first want to identify what the emotion is (i.e. sad, angry, mad, furious, frustrated, etc.). We want to really get in touch with our emotional experience. Almost always, what we are feeling comes down to a sense of loss. Life did not happen like we expected it to, and now we need to grieve it.
2. Acknowledge and appreciate the message that the emotion has for you. Now that we’ve identified what we are feeling, it’s time to dig a little deeper by asking ourselves, ” What is this emotion trying to tell me? What is the message that the emotion is sending to me?” Sit with the emotion for a little bit, treat the emotion like a guest at your house, welcome them in and ask them what they need. If the emotion had a positive message, what is it telling you to change?
3. Get incredibly curious as to what the message has to offer you. We’re halfway home. The first two steps are often difficult to even start. Be proud of yourself that you’ve made it this far. Next, it’s time to act like a detective or a scientist and get super curious with your experience. Ask yourself, “What is the real message this emotion is trying to give me? What does this emotion want to be different about myself, about life, about someone or something else?” Don’t place any judgments or make any guesses, just listen and pay attention to the evidence or clues that you find.
4. Get yourself to feel reassured that you can deal with this emotion. More than likely, you have encountered something like this emotion in the past. Close your eyes and remember a time when you dealt with this emotion successfully. See yourself handling the emotion successfully over and over again. Bring up as many examples as you need to remind yourself that you are strong, capable, and have handled difficult emotions before.
5. Get certain that you can handle anything like this in the future. Now it’s time to bring step 4 into the present and the future. We’ve reminded ourselves of how we have handled negative emotions in the past. It’s time to use those tools in the present and create the future we want. Close your eyes again, envision yourself handling this negative emotion successfully. Rehearse yourself dealing with this in the future successfully over and over again. Feel the confidence, the strength, and the skill you have. Focus on how you were down and how you turned it around. The negative emotion can’t stop you. It’s just a signal. It’s just energy. Keep rehearsing and visualizing until you feel it in your body. Eventually your brain will say, “I can handle this, I’m already prepared.” For all the mysteries and wonder the brain contains, the brain cannot tell the difference between something you vividly imagine and something that actually occurs. Let’s take that truth and make our positive imagination our positive reality. This isn’t positive thinking. We are changing our thoughts and feelings based on actual, real-life, past successes.
6. Take action and change your life. You’ve made it to the last step. It’s time to lock this in with some behavior change. We have identified the emotion we’re dealing with, we know the message it is sending us, we have seen the clues, we have welcomed our emotion, we’ve remembered how we succeeded before, and we’ve visualized how we will succeed again. Ask yourself, “What is one action that I can take, right now, that will move my life in the direction I want to go?” See that action, set some priorities, and go do that one thing and complete it. Once you get some momentum, you’ll be able to keep going. And slowly but surely, you’ll notice that the negative emotion has simply moved on. I encourage you to try this out the next time you encounter some difficult emotions. I’d love to hear how the process went for you. You got this! I help transform negative emotions. Contact me today to begin your healing journey! Here’s the video from where I got this process from: