Transforming negative emotions into positive actions

Today, I received an email from a friend in Washington State who forwarded a letter that his friend wrote about how she wasn’t allowed to express negative emotions as a young child. She was taught as a child of her culture that the only acceptable emotions to express were strength with a splash of happiness as emotions. When she would be frightened, or angry or sad, her parents forbid her to feel them, and she had to shut them down. That is not healthy in the long run. It may make the people around you feel better, but where does that shut down emotion go? Into the subconscious and kept as a memory for as long as you live until you release it.

So how do these feelings get released? When I Googled it, there were over 47 million hits, but wading through the quacks, and sales promotions took time! I invite you to do it though, if you are experiencing negative feelings, because many people who experience negativity in one form or another think that they are the only ones who feel this way, and that is just not the truth. Look at young children who haven’t had “emotional conditioning.” They’re honest with their anger, shame, sadness, fear. etc. So let’s just get that clear right now, that it is human to feel all kinds of feelings. What we also have to be clear on is that they need to be understood and processed in socially acceptable manners.

Parents may try to calm their kids down to keep them from hurting themselves, but later on, they need to teach their kids how to process these feelings.

None of the articles I read were as good as a technique I learned and used to teach as part of “Inner Light Conscious,” a course is spiritual development, which includes being at peace in body and mind. It’s hard to focus on the Creator who is Absolute Love, when we’re ticked off. So here is Rev. Paul Solomo’s” Nine Step Process for Mastering Emotions”, in a nutshell… instead of a weekend workshop, so bear with me.

1. Recognize that you are having an emotional response.

2. Describe the emotional honestly. Name it. Understand that we choose how we want to feel, and that we can choose to feel differently. I may be feeling angry, but it is probably from a feeling of a loss of control over a situation.

3. Accept responsibility that we choose how we express our feelings. No one makes you “feel” a certain way. That’s why some people react to break-ups in different ways, such as anger, sadness, relief, fear, jealousy, etc.

4. Review what triggered the emotion. Relive in your mind how you felt just before you felt the feeling and what happened to make you feel differently. There is power in this. Successful people know what their negative emotion “triggers” are, and have taught themselves ways to handle the feeling. Which takes us to:

5. Understand the belief you hold about the event is what triggered your feelings. If I believe that kids shouldn’t put each other down, and I observe it, I am likely to feel either sad or angry.

6. Examine the truth of that belief. This may be the hardest step. Do I choose to keep believing what I believe? In the case above, I’m going to say “yes.” I want to keep believing that kids shouldn’t put each other down. I believe that people should treat each other with respect, and I’ll hold onto that one. But if I’m feeling sadness/jealousy because my boyfriend is breaking up with me and that is coming from a belief that I wasn’t good enough, then I can choose differently. I might want to first say that I’m good enough as a human being and I’m getting better all the time. I am strong enough to stand on my own, and when the time is right, if I really want it, another person will be attracted to me for who I am.

7. Identify what you really want. This is where we sometimes have to completely reverse our thinking. We may think that acting jealous when a partner flirts is going to bring him back to us. It usually drives them further away. What attracts people to each other is love, kindness, respect, and the desire to share good times together. Now actually, isn’t that what you want? Sometimes it’s really simple. If you want love, give love. If you want respect, give respect.

8. Did your negative emotion get you what you really wanted? Be honest. Think in the long term. People shame others, or manipulate them with anger to get others to do what they want in the moment. But in the long run, people will begin to avoid them. Who likes feeling shamed or threatened?

9. Select an action that you think will get you what you want. Behaviorists know that sometimes the best action is to ignore negative behavior, because it teaches the other person that it won’t get them what they want. Telling them what you want in a respectful way will more likely get you what you want, but you have to be clear about what that is. If you haven’t gotten clear about what you want, how can you let another person know what that is? So go back to Step 7, and get clear. Then think about what would make that person want to act in the way that you want. Also understand that just because you want it, doesn’t mean that another person will choose to respond in that way. Negotiation is you next best tool. Talk about what each of you can give or do, and what you can’t, and try to come to a meaningful decision.

You may need to get help along the way here. This isn’t something that has to be done in 15 minutes. But if you feel you are under a kind of verbal attack, and you start feeling something, recognize that you are emotional. Then go right to Step 7. What do you want here? I actually tend to pray for the right things to say immediately. Perhaps you can ask for a better time in the future to discuss this, but follow through. I know someone who frequently says, “This is not a good time for me to talk,” and then never comes back to finish the conversation. That’s annoying, and makes a person want to continue the conversation right there.

Energy is energy. It’s how we use it that causes it to be either positive or negative. By going through the “9 Steps” as we affectionately call it, you’ve used the energy of the negative emotion to transform it into a positive one. This is rather advanced thinking. I know, but you are capable of it if you have someone work it with you the first time maybe. Perhaps a friend, trusted family member, school counselor, etc. could help you with it. I guarantee that it gets easier. The sooner you get into the habit of using the honest natural emotions to help you learn about yourself and what you want, the better off you’ll be.

Here are some quotations I found from some great thinkers that you can use as affirmations.

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” — Albert Einstein

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” — Buddha

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” — James Thurber

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Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org

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