We all experience negative emotions and on a pretty regular basis. For some people, they're persistent and too intense. This can be an awful and unmanageable place to be. Often times, people will try various ways to achieve some sort of relief or to escape their negative emotions, but these strategies usually backfire or make things worse.
I've worked with clients who initially believe that therapy success means no longer feeling negative emotions. And you can understand why - they've been suffering and want it to end. But that's not the goal, as negative emotions serve an important function for us. Also, we're stuck with them. *Caveat: this isn't to say that negative emotions can't become more manageable and less debilitating for those who suffer.*
Negative emotions (and positive emotions, too) tell us important things about what's going on. Anger tells us that something unfair or unjust is happening. Sadness tells us that we're experiencing loss. Anxiety means that there is threat that needs to be addressed. Shame indicates that we've acted in a way that contradicts our values. Emotions motivate us to act, which is a good thing.
This piece delves into negative emotions and why we need to embrace them. It's a helpful read.
From Scientific America:
Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being
Feeling sad, mad, critical or otherwise awful? Surprise: negative emotions are essential for mental health
By Tori Rodriguez
A client sits before me, seeking help untangling his relationship problems. As a psychotherapist, I strive to be warm, nonjudgmental and encouraging. I am a bit unsettled, then, when in the midst of describing his painful experiences, he says, “I'm sorry for being so negative.”
A crucial goal of therapy is to learn to acknowledge and express a full range of emotions, and here was a client apologizing for doing just that. In my psychotherapy practice, many of my clients struggle with highly distressing emotions, such as extreme anger, or with suicidal thoughts. In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity. Such reactions undoubtedly stem from our culture's overriding bias toward positive thinking. Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time.
Read the rest here: link.