A lot of people are scared to feel. If one is angry or sad, they may supress those feelings or decide to do something to divert their mind. This may work to a certain extent, but while your mind is focusing on other things, the emotions are festering and becoming even stronger within.
Some people I have spoken to have expressed that facing these unpleasant emotions or memories scares them, and yes, it is scary because you have to keep digging, feeling and facing the situation again and it causes a lot of discomfort.
Emotions have been categorized into positive and negative, but the way I make sense of it is the way these emotions make you feel is what has led to this categorization. Negative emotions create a sense of discomfort, while positive emotions create a sense of openness.
The basic idea of this picture shown below, is to show you that when we experience negative emotions, it restricts our consciousness, however, when we feel positive emotions like love, peace and joy, it expands our consciousness.
The negative emotions here, refer to shame, guilt, apathy, grief and fear. These emotions aren’t necessarily negative per say, but they are primitive. These negative emotions serve the purpose of protection and defence.
When you experience a stressful situation or a negative one, our body goes into fight or flight mode, this means that our body prepares to run away or fight through the situation. It is important for us to feel these responses so that our body knows that there is something we have to react to.
Ex: if your child is about to touch an iron that is on, you would scream something like “No! don’t do that!” or “What are you doing?! Stay away from that!”
The anger or fear you feel is because you are trying to protect your child from the pain. Here, anger is not a bad emotion, it is something that is helping you protect your child. These negative emotions are felt by us so we can survive in the environment, it is the natural way for us to protect ourselves and the people we care about.
However, these emotions are meant to be felt for a short period of time, this however, doesn’t happen. We end up feeling anger or other negative emotions for longer periods of time, which leads to our options being limited.
- Our options are limited because, the nature of these emotions is primitive – it restricts our behaviour to moving away from the situation of facing it head on. We are reducing our options with which we can respond.
Positive psychology is a field that has recently emerged, in the last decade or so, in which a lot of research has gone into emotions and their impact on us.
Dr. Barbra Fredrickson established the Broaden and Build Theory, in which she suggests that positive emotions help us broaden our horizons and then help us build on it.
What this means is that each positive emotion we feel, opens up or options for us to then build new skills. It allows us to feel more open and receptive to the challenges we face!
Think about a time when you were in an extremely good mood, or motivated. During this time, if you enter your child’s room and see how much of a mess they have left it in, it may not bother you as much, in fact you may just go and pick up some stuff and clean the room for them.
Positive emotions do more than just motivate you; it increases and expands your awareness because you are open to trying out new things. You feel more encouraged to go out and think of out of the box solutions.
The positive emotions we experience, allows us to build on our resources and think of creative solutions for problems we encounter in our daily life.
As parents, understanding the impact that these emotions have on us, will allow you to unburden yourself of the responsibility you take for your child’s behavior. Working with your child alongside these emotions will give you a newer perspective and ideas to teach them certain values and lessons that you want to inculcate in your child.
Each emotion has it’s own place in our lives, they all serve a purpose. An emotion you feel starts affecting you too much if you are not able to stop feeling that. All negative and positive emotions are important for us to feel, in some context or another. The important thing is managing them, so we can behave in an effective way.