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That Negative Emotion Is Actually Your Friend

          I’ve lived much of my life at various stages of war within myself.  Everything from head on assault to full scale retreat to under the table diplomatic bargaining.  An uneasy truce if I was lucky.  I realized recently that this is an unwinnable war, due to the simple fact that the “negative” emotion isn’t at all separate from me.  To defeat it would be to defeat myself.  It’s like a horrible game of whack-a-mole, except I am both the whacker and the mole.  So what am I left with? Surrender to the invading army of the negative emotion, because if I can’t beat ‘em, I might as well join ‘em?  

          What if the whole story I am telling myself is wrong, and the invading army is actually a friendly envoy with a very important message to give me.  If I receive the “negative” emotion as a friend, then no battle ensues.  If I listen to it, I learn what the underlying cause is, what my habitual reactions are, and how to move on as a healthier, happier, more whole person who is better acquainted with myself.  All living organisms have a natural impulse towards healing, balance, and wholeness.  Humans are no different.  We just sometimes get in our own way.  So how do we tap into this?

          When you feel the “negative” emotion coming on (be it anger, sadness, anxiety, or anything else), don’t try to squash it down, run away, or ignore it.  The more we try to ignore or fight with these feelings, the louder they become.  They are like a child who is screaming for your attention, and who will only scream louder and louder until you give it to them.  Instead of waiting until a point of desperation and exasperation, when you're in no position to soothe the screaming child but probably will only make things worse, try responding with openness and compassion from the beginning.  The better you get at receiving the negative emotion this way, the less it will have to scream to get your attention, and the apocalyptically crying child will become a mature communicator.  

          Once you’ve decided to receive the emotion as a friend, you can now listen to it.  It hasn’t come for no reason.  By “listen to it” I mean close your eyes, locate the feeling, and ask it what it has come to tell you.  You can do that literally or in some other form of it.  It may sound strange, but if you take a moment to locate the feeling, you will find it has a physical manifestation.  It may be a pressure in your forehead, a tightness in your chest, or a flipping in your stomach.  Tuning in to this feeling from a place of compassion and curiosity will not overwhelm you.  It will allow you to intuit the message.  It’s a novel experience for most of us who are so used to ignoring these emotions until we can’t anymore, but every emotion expresses itself and with practice it becomes second nature to listen to them.  

          Now that you’ve received the message, you can thank the messenger and send it on it’s way.  If it doesn’t leave, then it has more to tell you.  All of this is essentially a process of getting to know yourself better, realizing the stories you tell yourself and the emotional patterns you’ve created.  This self awareness allows you to release narratives and habits that are no longer serving you and allows the space to create new, healthier ones.  Not only the space for new habits and lifestyle choices, but space within yourself for understanding, compassion, and love, free of fear and self beratement.  You can realize the inherent freedom you have when not shackled to your emotions, but are instead working with them.  All the struggle is unnecessary, and the “negative” emotion is actually a friend who’s come to provide you with a roadmap to help navigate the complexities of being human. 

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