Episode 26: Allowing Negative Emotion
You are listening to The Confidence Catalyst Podcast with LDS Life Coach Hannah Coles Episode 26: Allowing Negative Emotions.
We’re conditioned to believe that we should be happy all that time, that negative emotions are BAD and that positive emotions are GOOD. So we chase after happy feelings and we resist all the contrast. But we forget that it’s because of this contrast that the good is even possible. We need both the positive AND the negative to create a rich, full, vibrant life. Negative emotions aren’t bad. It simply means you’re human and it’s okay. In this episode, I teach you why we resist negative emotions, why we actually want and need the negatives as well as the positive, and how to allow them into your life.
Shout Out to The Catalyst Members
Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Confidence Catalyst podcast. You all are amazing and I’m just so thrilled to be able to offer this to you.
First, I just want to give a shoutout to my catalyst members! You all are showing up in incredible ways and I just love the membership. You all are missing out, come join us. It’s so good and think about how much progress you could make in your life if you had access to coaching every day? There are courses, mini-courses, little pick me ups, a community on Facebook of other likeminded, beautiful people and of course, access to get coached with your own specific struggles. It’s so good. Your world will absolutely change when you make the decision to start investing in you each month, and really the best part is is that it’s less than a movie date, it’s less than a Target run (at least for me it is), it’s only $50 a month and unlike those one time, in the moment things, this will have a profound impact on you and how you show up and experience the world. Come join me. You won’t regret it.
Allowing Negative Emotions
Okay, let’s dive in today. Today we’re talking about negative emotions. That’s fun, right?
So one thing I see pretty common across the board is trying to run away from negative emotions. When you see someone crying, hurt, or unhappy what’s your first instinct? To cheer them, right? You want to offer them kind words, something uplifting, something to “make them feel better”.
Since we’re taught at an early age that negative feelings are bad and we should, quick! Try and make ourselves feel better. This becomes a problem because then we believe that we should always be happy and when we operate from this belief we miss out of so much depth, richness, and color that our life has when we allow both the positive and negative emotions to be present and learn how to really feel them without resisting or running away from them.
Power to change how you feel
I remember when I first learned about the model I was just in amazement that I had the power to change my thoughts that would change the feeling. So when I wasn’t feeling how I wanted to I’d swap the thought for a better one because I wanted to make myself feel better. I wanted to escape or run away from negative emotions and I think a lot of us do this. We learn that, okay, yes. I’m feeling this way because of a sentence in my mind so clearly the logical thing to do is switch the thought, create a new feeling – a better feeling, and move forward, right?
But this is a mistake and I’m going to dive into this entire podcast explaining why we need and actually WANT to move into these negative emotions. When we’re too quick to rush out of them they hold power over us. A lot of us don’t actually experience the negative emotion rather we experience the fear of this negative emotion. We’re afraid to feel fear so we don’t feel fear, we feel the fear of feeling fear. So many of us don’t feel true frustration, we feel the resistance to frustration. In fact, we don’t allow ourselves to feel sad or disappointment, we feel and experience the resistance to sadness (holding your breath, apologizing, biting your lip, pushing it away, right?).
Think about this, when you go into the doctors office to get bloodwork done the nurses tell you to relax right? But it’s hard to relax because you’re in fear and in anticipation of this pain that’s imminent so instead we tense up. We clench our fists. We hold our breath and it hurts, really, really bad. I remember doing this for years and years despite all the efforts and advise where they’d say, “Just relax, breathe into it” – I was like, “are you kidding?!” And I’d tense up and it’d hurt terribly. But then one day my husband told me, you’re like a rock and they’re trying to stab a needle through a rock. It’s going to hurt even worse it you tense up. What’s easier, stabbing a needle through a rock or a cube of butter? He said, you have to relax and exhale, become butter. So the next time I went in, I did and it didn’t feel good but it certainly wasn’t as terrible as I had been making it all those years prior.
Relax into them
It’s similar with our emotions. We need to relax into them, all of them and let it run it’s course. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a leading neuroanatomist from Harvard taught that we think a thought, a believable thought that then releases a chemical into our bodies. Remember, a feeling is just a vibration in our bodies. It’s the chemical release, vibration of this emotion. And she teaches that for it to run it’s full course, it’s full cycle it takes only 90 seconds.
90 second cycle
But we don’t experience it for 90 seconds. We feel it for hours, days, months, and even years sometimes. So how can it only be 90 seconds? When we’re in resistance to these negative emotions we aren’t addressing the real issue, the root cause of what’s creating the cycle in the first place. What we’re really doing is running away from it. We’re pushing it down. We’re avoiding it. Anything but actually feeling the feeling and as a result we keep focusing on the thought that keeps creating the chemical release. We keep retriggering the cycle.
Instead what we need to do is just allow ourselves to feel it.
Bad and good?
We somehow think that negative feelings are bad and positive feelings are good and this is a misunderstanding. It’s the opposition in all things that allows us to expand and broaden our mortal experience. Without sadness we couldn’t know happiness, right? If we didn’t have loss or failure we couldn’t know accomplishment or feeling proud, really proud. Without fear there’s no need for courage, right?
We need the negatives for us to fully appreciate and comprehend the full spectrum of emotions. Negative emotions aren’t bad just like negative numbers aren’t bad. They just are. It’s just a different feeling. You don’t need to run from it or rush out of it. You don’t need to fix anything because nothing is broken.
Allow yourself to feel these emotions, if only for 90 seconds. You can feel anything for 90 seconds. What happens when we finally do allow ourselves to just sit with the emotion, it leaves on it’s own much faster than had we resisted it. It’s like trying to ignore a toddler. Have you tried doing this? Ignoring them just makes the whole thing way worse. They’ll keep saying your name again, and again, and again, and again. Each time intensifying and getting louder and more persistent. Then they’ll throw an all out tantrum, throwing things and themselves on the floor and it makes the whole situation worse than had you just acknowledged them, right?
This really is what our emotions are like. They need to be noticed, acknowledged, and processed. And this is a skill that we can work on, that like anything needs to be practiced. We think it’s automatic, it should be easy, because we think we’re doing it all the time but we’re not. What we’re practicing all the time is the resistance to the emotion, not the emotion itself.
This is a skill you can learn
So instead we need to practice allowing the emotion, leaning into it a bit and taking the time to fully allow ourselves that experience. I’m going to walk you through this in a minute but I know there are some of you out there that are like, “no way, I’m so out. I do not want to lean into sadness, or loneliness, or anxiety, or whatever negative emotion you’re feeling and the way you’ve been experiencing it, I’d be right there with you.
Think about the doctors office and me clenching my muscles. I would NOT want to lean in to that. That’s terrible but this is different. What I’m asking you to do, what I’m telling you to do is to become butter. Become a vessel that this emotion can safely visit and then leave. This doesn’t have to be scary or something to avoid. It doesn’t have to be something that you want to resist. It’s just a vibration in your body created by a thought, a sentence in your mind.
Colors and emotions
Now I want you to think of these emotions as colors. There are positive emotions and negative emotions and there are neutral emotions. Just like there are bright colors and dark colors and muted colors. Can you imagine a painting with only bright colors – no darks. No greys, no blacks for sure, no purple, or maroon. Just bright colors, no shadows even. Just bright. What would that look like? Is it even possible? Even in a bright painting there’s still the contrast there. They need the contrast to create art. We want the full color spectrum because it makes the art so much richer, deeper, and more vibrant. It accentuates the brights and makes them stand out and pop.
Your emotions are the same. We want the negative ones so that we can experience a rich, vibrant, life where the contrast makes it possible for the positive emotions to pop. Embrace them. Allow them. This allowing doesn’t mean build a permanent residence for them in your home. This just means that when they knock on your door you answer it. You acknowledge that it’s there. You allow their 90 second moment and then you thank them for stopping by and go on your way.
Layering on the feels
There is nothing wrong with negative emotions. We’re just so conditioned to believe that happy is good and negative is bad. And when we think and Associate negative emotions with bad we then layer more thoughts, more feelings, more resistance on top of it all. Think about this. You notice yourself feeling sad but then you think, “I shouldn’t be sad because I’ve been given so much. I have clean water, I should be grateful! Then we think, I’m a despicable human being” and now you didn’t process the sadness so the thought creating that is still present and creating more sadness and now you’ve added guilt and shame to the party too.
Think how much different your life would be if you could allow yourself to feel those negative emotions without making it mean something terrible or ugly about yourself?
Most of the time what we do is something I call, thought swapping. Especially if you’re well-versed with these tools and the model. You start to think thoughts that will make you feel better and not just better but thoughts that will get you back to happy town. This work isn’t just about happy town or thought swapping for happy ones so you can not feel this way anymore. This work is about upleveling your life so you can deepen, broaden, and add a richness to it in a way that you just can’t get if you run away, resist, or ignore the negative emotions. There’s some experiences that you can only have if you allow the negative feelings to be present.
It’s opposition in all things. This knowledge saves me on so many occasions. I recognize that I need the light and the dark to create a beautiful experience for myself. We need to practice getting really good at labeling our emotions and then adding, and it’s okay. This is huge because for so many of us, it’s not okay. We think it’s not okay. We think it means we’re doing something wrong and what thought can I change because I shouldn’t be feeling this way. But this is a mistake. You want just recognize that they’re there and they’re there for a reason and it’s okay that they’re there.We need to get passed the notion that negative emotion is wrong. But it really is okay to feel negative emotions.
Feelings are vibrations
Anger is a feeling. A vibration in your body created by your thoughts that will cycle through and last 90 seconds. Sadness is a vibration in your body, created by your thoughts that will cycle through your body and last 90 seconds if you allow it. Same with all our emotions. They’re not good or bad. They just are.
They’re just a chemical reaction that feels different for each person and here’s really the key to it all. These feel different for each person. Do you know what it feels like for you? I thought I did, but I only knew the resistance to it. I didn’t know what sadness felt like, just the resistance to sadness and the pain that was created by me holding my breath all the time to stop crying. What’s wrong with crying? Why do we always apologize?
Tears are okay too
There are a lot of tears in my work because we’re diving deep into areas that we’ve hidden and locked away for so long that when they do surface there’s this surge of relief, this outpouring of energy, and so people cry. Then they apologize and I always tell them, crying is more than okay. There’s nothing wrong with crying. Bring on the tears. Let them be present for as long as they need to be.
This invitation, this acceptance usually allows the tears to dry up and leave much faster than resisting, biting your lip, holding your breath, and ruminating on all the thoughts that created it in the first place.
Allowing is such a beautiful practice. So I want to walk you through what allowing looks like because this really is the key to moving forward in any area of your life. It’s pivotal and transformative. Think about this, where do feelings go in the model?
Feelings and the model
The F line is right in the middle, right? It’s circumstances, thoughts, FEELINGS, Actions, and results. Feelings motivate us into action. The reason you’re not able to move forward or go after what you want to go after – no matter what that is, a new job, a conversation that you really want to have but are too afraid to, a new goal. We can’t move forward because we’re not focused and intentional in allowing our feelings. Most of these feelings act as a springboard for the next step in your journey as well.
Start by getting really good at articulating the feeling. Notice what’s going on and what you’re feeling. Sometimes I’ll throw a feeling out there and then question it, is that really what I’m feeling? Just to name it and be certain because I want to practice what that feeling feels like.
Techy, confusion, and allowing the negatives
In my business especially in the beginning when I had a story that I’m not tech. I’d feel frustrated, confused, and doubt all the time. I didn’t know what I was doing or so I told myself so I’d start to feel confused and frustrated and I didn’t want to feel that way so I’d offer different thoughts, thought swapping to make myself feel better but this never works because I didn’t allow and address what was creating the feeling in the first place.
So I let myself sit with it. Anytime I’d start to get overwhelmed by it all I’d just pause and name it. I’m feeling overwhelmed because I’m believing a sentence in my mind.
Okay, here’s the magic I want you to get really good at practicing. You have to follow that chemical release as it travels through your body. Notice where the vibration goes. What does it feel like from a physiological standpoint? Leave out words like, good, bad, or any adjectives like that. Describe it medically. I feel heat behind my eyes. I feel a fast energy in my head and it’s hot. The more and more I described it, observed it, noticed what was happening I also stopped thinking the original provoking thought or thoughts that created it.
Notice, I didn’t run from it. I didn’t thought swap it away. I just allowed it. The thought was there. It created a chain reaction. I watched and observed the feeling cycle all the way through and then at the end I felt neutral. I had this beautiful space to then decide what I wanted to think next. A lot of times I still don’t want to rush to happy but I can be very intentional with what happens next.
Curiosity is a peace-maker
This process invites curiosity to the mix. It’s such a peacemaker, curiosity because from here with it’s help you can move forward and still progress instead of stopping, going to bed, shopping, eating, doing something to escape the original feeling.
Remind yourself that feelings aren’t bad. This is not a reflection against you. It doesn’t mean anything negative. It’s just a human experience. Really, it just means you’re normal. You’re mortal and that you’re allowing the contrast to be present because these help create a masterpiece of your life.
Negative emotions are here to stay and there’s nothing wrong with that. People think that when you get really good at thought work then all your problems go away and that’s inaccurate because once you overcome one challenge there’s going to be another and another but this time there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just part of the journey and if they don’t feel as intense of horrible as resisting them does, then it’s not that big of deal if they choose to come to along.
Awareness is key
So start by being aware of what you’re feeling. Instead of resisting, breathe into it and name it. Take responsibility for it. I’m feeling or I’m creating then name the feeling and say, because of a sentence in my mind and it’s okay.
Then go into great detail describing it. Watch it run it’s cycle then watch it as it leaves.
It’s such a beautiful process. It’s nothing to be afraid of. The feelings themselves are just vibrations. What hurts is your resistance to it and your thoughts that make it mean something terrible.
Real time, real embarrassment
Let me give you an example of what this looks like in real-time. I always walk around with several notebooks. I write in ideas I have, things I want to do, I use it for thought work and running models, I write in notes, thoughts, quotes, lists. It’s my first source of processing. They all get written down here and then later organized to where they need to go but here it starts just so I don’t lose it or forget. So anyway, I had this very full notebook of this modge podge of mental stuff and I’m very careful to keep it with me always but this one Sunday I left it at church on the piano.
When I went home I couldn’t find it but it wasn’t that big of deal because it was full and I had started a new one anyway so it wasn’t like dire need that I had it. I just thought I left it in the car or another bag, which I’ve done on countless occasions. We went on vacation, we visited family and their ward. We were gone for about a month. Then the Sunday I returned there was this journal on the top of the piano.
Okay immediately I felt worry and embarrassment. I knew what was in those notebooks and it’s nothing crazy it’s just a lot of thought work and inner mess, right? Things I don’t usually want people scouring through. So my mind is racing with who saw it, how much did they read, did they think I was looney? You know, all the thoughts and as I thought that I felt hot and my breath felt hitched.
Name, allow, describe, let go
So I stopped and named it. I’m feeling embarrassment. This is what embarrassment feels like. I took responsibility for it. I’m feeling embarrassed because of a sentence in my mind. This is important because if you’re creating it you can decide when you’re done too. You don’t need anyone else to say or do anything for you to feel better. So I owned responsibility for it then I just started describing it to myself. It’s hot. My forehead is burning and my cheeks are warm. It’s a fast vibration. My heart is beating rapidly. My throat feels tight and makes it harder to breathe.
I just did this, just like that, noticing what was happening inside my body and by doing that it just gently left.
Then in that beautiful space I could intentionally decide what I wanted to think next. Did I want to get to happy? Did I want to keep worrying? What did I want? I decided I wanted I just wanted to be grateful. That’s what I chose. I chose grateful because I hadn’t lost it. Most people probably didn’t rifle through it anyway and everything was fine. So that’s what I focused on and that’s what I created.
The embarrassment was gone. Processed and then exited. It really was about 90 seconds and then I was through. Can you even imagine what would change for you if you allowed your feelings, especially the negative feelings? Think about what that would mean for you. No more stopping. No more hiding or shaming. Just processing, allowing, and progressing.
Negative emotions don’t mean anything about you
Negative emotions are not bad. They don’t mean anything about you. If you’re feeling them it doesn’t mean you thought the wrong thought or that you shouldn’t feel this way. It’s a part of mortality and it really is okay.
Allow them, use these tools to process them, then let them go. This is truly how you let them go. You’re not trying to control them or resist them. You’re just allowing them and then intentionally deciding what’s next. Maybe what’s next isn’t happy. Maybe you choose to feel a negative feeling on purpose and that’s okay too. Just own it, so that you can see that you’re creating this experience and it’s okay.
It looks like this:
Notice the feeling
Own it, take responsibility for it by telling yourself, I’m feeling _______- because of a sentence in my mind.
Then describe it and watch it leave.
This is truly a game-changer. It will uplevel your life and allow you to not be hindered by emotions but to allow you to keep moving, keep progressing, keep growing in healthy ways.
Practice this. Get really good at feeling and allowing negative emotion instead of feeling the resistance to them. Big difference.
If you’re in the membership I have a bonus course on this with worksheets to walk you through this. So make sure to grab that!
Okay all, that’s what I’ve got for you this week. Talk to you next time!