Why thinking positively is not always enough

I was teaching a Desire Map workshop at the weekend and there were some strong emotions that came up for some of the women that attended.  When you think about how you want to feel and realise that you aren’t and haven’t been feeling that way for some time, there can be sadness and pain around it. It can be painful to admit that you are not happy. That you are not OK.  To let that mask you put on everyday, slip and show your true feelings.

The Desire Map is all about positive emotions but it’s not about positive thinking and denying how you feel. It’s so important to be with how you feel and not deny or push down negative emotions because they are like tsunamis.  The water looks calm and even recedes but then it comes full force and totally engulfs you.  It’s best to find an early warning system and have a strategy on how to deal with them!

As a Life Coach, I am all about looking at the positives but there is always a balance.  A yin and a yang. One cannot be without the other. We don’t really get taught how to deal with emotions like grief, anger or sadness.  So when we do feel them, we tend to find unhelpful coping strategies like alcohol, food, drugs or denial. I too have been guilty of using red wine and chocolate as a method to console myself!

I love this poem by Rumi, which sums it up beautifully….

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

So how do you be with negative emotions?  Here are my top tips for dealing with that overwhelming surge of emotion when it does occur.
  • Get up and move!  Emotion is simply energy in motion so moving your body is a great way to shift the energy and let the emotion pass.  If you are angry, put on some angry music and dance!  Punch pillows, scream and let it out.
  • Writing is another great way to get your emotions out.  Put pen to paper and write down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Yoga releases emotions.  When you open up your body with Yoga, it also opens up your emotional channels and you may find yourself crying.  This is good as you are letting it out and healing.
  • Talk it out, especially with somebody who can simply listen and hold space for you.  This is why therapy and coaching is so effective!
  • Be mindful and label what is happening in your body such as ‘my jaw is clenching’ or ‘I’m thinking catastrophic thoughts’.  Become aware of your body and how it’s responding.
  • In positive psychology, 3 positive thoughts have been found to overturn a negative, so say or write 3 things that you have done well today or are grateful for.
  • You can use a mantra such as ‘I’m looking forward to feeling x’ or ‘this too shall pass’.  Know that emotions are like the weather and they will always change.
  • Be curious about them! Emotions are your GPS system and they tell you when you’ve gone off track so ask yourself questions like ‘where is this feeling coming from?’ or ‘what is this trying to show me?’

How do you deal with strong emotions, or not?

You can sign up to find out more about my Desire Map workshops here.

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