4 Steps to Wisdom and Happiness
Table of Contents
Your wisdom and happiness depends on you and your state of mind. If you can deal with your negative emotions, you can remain positive and happy.
On the other hand, there are those who radiate joy and happiness, despite suffering the most terrible hardships.
So what’s their secret?
It’s easy to say “think positive”, “look on the bright side”, “stop thinking your cup’s half empty and realise it’s half full” – but, as I know from personal experience, it’s not so easy to apply that kind of advice.
I’ll come clean and admit that I’ve been a life-long worrier, and in the past I often had a tendency to look on the black side.
In this post, I’m going to share with you a simple but powerful four step program that has helped me to change my perspective on life and has given me more wisdom and happiness. I’ve found it to be a very effective way to deal with those negative emotions that can make your life a misery.
It’s based on the teachings of Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit (Roman Catholic) priest, who drew on the teachings of Eastern mystics, as well as his own Christian tradition.
However, I want to emphasise that what follows has no “religious” component – I don’t personally subscribe to any particular religion, but still find de Mello’s teachings inspirational, because of his deep insights into the psychology of human wisdom and happiness.
How to Deal With Negative Emotions
Step One: Get In Touch With Your Negative Feelings
We all have negative feelings – but do you realise you may be harbouring some you’re not even aware of?
People are often weighed down by feelings of depression, anger, guilt, self-hatred, anxiety, jealousy, envy, nervous tension – but they don’t always recognise them for what they are.
You may have witnessed the slightly comic effect of someone in a violent rage, screaming “I’m NOT angry!!” – that’s an extreme example of someone who’s clearly out of touch with their feelings.
But it’s surprising how easy it is for us to be in a state of denial about our less attractive and endearing emotions.
We love telling people how happy we are; but it’s not so comfortable to acknowledge we’re full of suppressed envy, guilt, anxiety or depression.
The trouble is, those feelings often find expression in other ways – for example, they can affect our behaviour and the way we treat people, or they can result in problems such as insomnia, or physical illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.
Our negative feelings are at the root of our unhappiness, but we can’t deal with them if we’re not in touch with them. Dealing with the symptoms (the marriage that’s on the rocks, the chronic indigestion, that terrible relationship with your boss) isn’t going to lead to a lasting solution.
It’s like treating flea bites that keep appearing on your legs when your house is infested – the bites will keep coming back unless and until you realise your house is full of fleas and you get rid of them.
So that’s step one: be honest with yourself and get in touch with those dark feelings you may not want to own up to.
Step Two: Understand the Feeling is in YOU, Not in Reality
That may seem obvious, but we’re very good at projecting our feelings onto the external world – or onto other people. Here’s a simple example:
You feel miserable because it’s raining today – you might even say something like, “it’s a miserable day”. No it’s not! The day is fine, the weather is fine – it’s raining, that’s all. Maybe there’s a hurricane blowing. But if you’re feeling miserable, that feeling’s in you; it’s not part of external reality. The problem exists in your head.
Or maybe it’s a person who’s getting you down, and you’ll say, “She makes me so angry!” Does she really? Can someone else actually get inside your head and make you angry?
So you’re feeling all this anger inside, but you’re not “owning” the anger; you’re too busy blaming the other person (or the weather!)for the way you’re feeling.
Understand that the anger, the depression, the frustration, the tension – whatever it is you’re feeling – is in you.
You can’t influence the weather; you can’t control the way someone else behaves towards you; but you can influence the way you react.
We talk about people “winding us up”, don’t we? As if we’re nothing more than marionettes or mechanical toys, under someone else’s power and control. But that’s an illusion – the only person who’s really in control of your emotions is you.
So the second step is to take ownership of your emotions and accept responsibility for the way you’re feeling.
Step Three: Never Identify With the Feeling
Although the feeling is in you, take care not to identify with it as if it’s part of your essential self. Don’t define yourself in terms of that feeling.
The negative feeling is a passing thing – it’s not part of your own identity. So try to avoid saying things like “I am depressed” or “I am anxious” – because when you say that, you’re labelling yourself – defining yourself – as being that feeling. And you’re not – you’re so much more than that.
This is tricky, because it’s the way we tend to speak about our feelings, but it’s very unhelpful. Try re-phrasing it by saying something like, “feelings of depression are there” or “I can sense some feelings of anxiety right now”.
I used to describe myself, and think of myself, as an anxious person – I’d often tell myself “I’m anxious” – but not any longer. I still sometimes have feelings of anxiety and I recognise them for what they are, but I no longer identify with them as part of me, because they’re not.
You’d be amazed how taking that simple step can strip negative feelings of their power over you – it’s a great way of taking back control.
Keep reminding yourself that these are transient feelings that will pass, like clouds in the sky. Just as when you’re feeling overjoyed, you know that feeling of ecstasy’s not going to last, don’t you? It’s the same with negative feelings – they come and they go.
So that’s the third step: avoid identifying with your negative feelings – remember, they’re not an essential part of you.
Step Four: Realise that when YOU Change, Everything Changes
We often think our happiness depends on something else or somebody else changing – if only the my stocks would rise, if only my boss would be nicer to me, if only my kids would behave, if only the sun would shine, if only my wife would stop nagging, if only Google’s Pandas and Penguins would go away……
Anthony de Mello puts it very well – he says it’s like we’re sick, so we go to the doctor and ask him to prescribe a medicine for our wife or our boss or our kids – then we’ll feel better. Sounds crazy, I know, but that’s often the way we think – how wonderful life would be, if only someone else would change.
But the way to wisdom and happiness is to recognise that you’re the one who needs to take the medicine, as it were.
You’re the only one who can recognise and deal with your negative emotions; you’re the one who needs to change.
So step four involves waking up to the fact that your happiness depends on you – realising that when you change, everything changes. And that rainy day doesn’t seem so bad after all…..
Over to you –
How do you deal with your negative emotions? If you have any tips you’d like to share, from your own personal experience, please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you.
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos, tnarik
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Hi there – thanks very much for your comment and I just love the quote you’ve given us there – what a great thought with which to start the day – thank you 🙂
Very nice and interesting post on wisdom and happiness and i can recall a quote on this which i read a week back.
Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.
I think we’ve all done that at one time or another – let our emotions define us, that is. It’s wonderful that you’ve discovered the way to free yourself from that bind, Arelis – as you say, we’re NOT our emotions – we are so much more than that.
Thanks so much for your affirming feedback 🙂
I have to admit that I would let my emotions define me. I would hold on to them and it was just the worst time of my life. When I started to ask myself why am I feeling this way it opened up a door. I focused on the positive. I still let myself feel my emotions but I no longer let them define me. I’ll let them stay for a short time, acknowledge them and let them go. Like you say Sue, we’re sad/mad/upset/depressed and then we’re not. We’re not that emotion.
What a wonderful post! How easy it is to let negative emotions rule us. Define us. And so easy to blame others (other things). I know I’ve been guilty of it, myself. By the same token, I don’t let others take my joy from me. Oftentimes, people are unhappy and they want everyone around them to be unhappy… no one else can take my joy from me. 🙂
Hi Donna – I know just what you mean about the potentially infectious nature of misery – I think it applies to anxiety, too. When you’re around someone who’s very tense or low in mood, it can feel as if they’re trying to drag you into their mindset – like you, I make a conscious effort not to let that happen. It’s so important not to let other people control how we feel.
Thanks so much for your feedback 🙂
Hi Sue and Harleena, thanks for a great post on wisdom and happiness. Having a Type A personality, and a former job that created a lot of stress, can’t say that I’ve always been very good at managing negativity, especially negative emotions. Perhaps age has mellowed me, or perhaps it was leaving corporate America, I find that I am better at it now. Oh, and I go for a run when I’m hedging towards a “negative day”. It’s amazing how for me, a run always seems to bring me back into “the positive.”
Hi Carol – I think our underlying personalities and social circumstances can certainly make a difference – some people seem to be naturally more laid back than others. Plus, jobs and families present different emotional challenges
Like you, I feel I’ve got better at dealing with negative feelings as I’ve got older, but I don’t think it’s something that just happens naturally with age. I used to work with older people with mental health problems, and I’ve come across lots of people who’ve developed more intense emotional issues – anxiety, depression etc. – in later life. For whatever reason, it’s great that you now feel better able to deal with negativity.
Exercise is a great de-stresser – I find a good brisk walk or jog is a big help, too, if ever I’m feeling a bit down – it’s an excellent way to lift the spirits.
Thanks so much for your comments, Carol 🙂
Hi Tanya – you’ve just made my day. A comment like yours makes it all seem worthwhile.
I’m really sorry that you experience bouts of low mood, but it’s great that you recognise the source of the problem and feel able to start dealing with those negative feelings. The trouble with those “minor” niggling issues is that they can seem like mountains when you’re feeling down and don’t have things in perspective.
Thanks so much for letting me know you’ve found this helpful – I wish you happiness and joy, Tanya 🙂
Oh, Susan. You have no idea how much I needed to read this. Great practical advice that I can implement today. Every few years I seem to sink into a bit of depression and it has a lot to do with suppressing my emotions. While my family life is really good and supportive, we are guarded with our emotions. So it’s been my tendency to “lock-down” any emotion or feeling that hurts or is negative instead of simply dealing with the issue. I recognize this now and am actively working to address those issues (which are so minor at the end of the day!) and let them go. I have so much to be thankful for and I want to appreciate and enjoy life.
Hi Maggie – I use a journal, too – like you, I find it’s a very good way to keep track of your feelings and reactions and, as you say, to get things into perspective.
Many thanks for your comment 🙂
Great post, Sue! Realizing that a feeling is just how you feel right now is so important. If it’s difficult to remember, I find keeping a journal does help. Reading back over feelings from previous days helps give some perspective.
Thank you very much for the warm welcome – I must say, it’s an honour to be here and lovely to meet you.
I was interested to hear your friend’s quote – I can see why you disagreed with him but, in a way, I think I know where he was coming from – because our thoughts and feelings can indeed shape our lives, for good or ill. For example, if we DO identify with those feelings of depression and anxiety, then we’re going to have a pretty miserable existence. But there’s no need for us to be passive victims of our thoughts – if that’s what your friend meant, then you were right to disagree with him.
As you rightly say, we should be able to control our thoughts and feelings – and that’s really what this post’s all about – helping people to see that they can regain control over their feelings and, as you so powerfully put it, “forge our own destiny”.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Bob – greatly appreciated 🙂
Hi Sue, welcome to Harleena’s blog.
I love this post because it a post that would also help you to understand the inner you. I love all the tips you have shared especially your third point which is never to identify with the feeling, it reminds me of an argument I with a friend during my university days. His favorite quote was “our lives are what our thoughts makes it”, and I do not like that quote because I believe that we shouldn’t let our feelings shaping our lives because we should be able to control them and whatever you think is in your head and not in reality. Also I love your last point because whenever we change, things around us changes and we should learn to move with the tides of our lives and forge our own destiny. Great post.
I’m so sorry this is such a difficult and unhappy time of year for you – and I can entirely relate to your being a “worry-wart” because that’s been one of my weaknesses, too, as I mention in the post.
Focusing on what you can do right now to make things better is a great strategy – worrying about what might or might not happen in the future can be hard to resist, but it’s a great waste of emotional energy and usually does nothing but make us miserable.
I hope you manage to overcome those residual unhappy feelings, Cararta.
Thanks so much for letting me know you’ve found the post helpful – I really appreciate your comments 🙂
What a great post, just when I needed it!
This time of year is rather sad for me, noticed lately that I have been tearing up when I read things that touch a nerve. October is a “bad” month for me, made it through, but still have some unhappy hanging around.
You are right, you just can’t decide the cup is half-full and fix anything…it takes more.
Copied down several of Harleena’s links and plan to take the time to read.
My younger sister always says I’m a worry-wart, so I have worked on leaving worry about what might happen out of the mix and focus on what I can do to change the here and now…which should change the what is to come!
Sue, what an inspiring post!
Great to see you here too on Harleena’s blog. I tend to hid my negative feelings which is not really a good thing. It’s a powerful lesson to learn that someone can’t control how you feel, but you can control how you react to others. If they want to bring you down, you must take control and not let it happen. It’s always easier said than done, I know. I love your example of the rain in that the feeling is in us but not our reality. That speaks volumes! Thank you Sue for making my day better after reading this.
I think it’s very common and very natural for us to want to hide our negative feelings – because we just want them to go away. And you’re absolutely right that controlling our reactions is easier said than done – it’s something we have to keep working on. That’s where I find these four steps very helpful to keep in mind.
Thanks so much for your lovely feedback – your comment’s made my day, too 🙂
…and that was a beautiful comment, Angela.
You’ve demonstrated very powerfully, from your experience of your father’s anger, how damaging negative emotions can be, for ourselves and for those close to us, if we don’t find constructive ways of dealing with them – that must have been very difficult for your mother and your whole family to cope with. If we don’t acknowledge and deal with those feelings, we end up hurting other people or hurting ourselves – or both.
I entirely agree with you that negative feelings are a normal part of life, and not something we should be ashamed of or try to suppress. I think that’s often the trouble – people ARE ashamed of them, so don’t want to own them, and that’s when those tricky emotions go underground and create all kinds of mayhem.
It sounds as if you’ve developed some really positive ways of dealing with your own feelings, Angela – writing about them and taking some vigorous exercise are two of my favourite strategies, too. I think writing is really helpful, because it’s a great way to facilitate reflection on our emotional state and I find it often helps me to get things in perspective.
I’m very grateful to you for sharing your own experiences and thoughts so generously in this comment, Angela – I’m sure other readers will be able to relate to what you’ve said and will find your comment very helpful and encouraging – thank you so much 🙂
It’s good to see you as a guest blogger here on Harleena’s. Seeing both of you here in one spot is like hitting 2 birds with one stone. It’s good to have both of the best people I know in my life!
Well…let me reiterate what the bible said, “Be angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath.” I don’t remember what verse is that but I do remember the words so well. And so, it means that God created all these emotions in us. We are entitled to our emotions whether this is negative or positive. It is ours. It is our own emotions.
However, dealing with anger and anxiety…can be very tricky sometimes. I remember my dad whenever he was feeling negative emotionally, he would hit my mom and he would scare the rest of us kids to death. He just didn’t know how to handle his negative emotions. And THIS can be very detrimental in any of your relationship with anyone. Work or Home.
So how do you handle negative emotions?
You actually stated everything here. Right on the nail. You said it right. How I handle my emotions is…sometimes I write it down on my journal. And I will just write things like…”I am angry…I feel abandoned…I feel ignored…” just FEELINGS no story telling… then later on I will “acknowledge” it and say, okay those were my feelings then. What made me feel this way? So after acknowledging it, I understand myself better. I feel the way I feel because….for whatever reason…
Sometimes, when I’m so angry I would scream in my car when nobody can hear me. Or take a jog on the block, to let out my energy!! I think ANGRY feelings should let the steam out in a “healthy manner” or else if you KEEP it to yourself and didn’t manage it the way it should be, it’ll start breaking in your body (i.e. ulcer, cancer).
So I believe we are entitled to our feelings. It’s neither right or wrong. It just is. It is our very own. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this. This is a beautiful post. See you soon…
That’s very well said – if we didn’t have any sorrow in our lives, we wouldn’t be truly human. The trick is not to let those negative feelings overwhelm us – to let them go and move on, as you say.
Many thanks for your wise comment 🙂
Hello Sue Neal,
Well written on our real life. I think there will be happiness & sorrow, negative & positive should be in everyone’s life. Without all these we can’t live. There is a proverb – weal & woe come by turns. So we must forget the past & move forward.
It’s lovely to be here, and especially lovely to receive such an interesting and challenging comment from you, Mayura.
I think it’s always best to get down to “root causes”, as you put it – but that can be painful, because it’s often the nasty stuff that’s at the root of our misery that we’re inclined to suppress.
When you refer to teens trying to deal with negative feelings but becoming victims, do you mean some of the nasty stuff that goes on in chat-rooms online, where people slag each other off and even encourage self-harm? I think you have to be very careful with whom you share your deepest feelings – if you open up to someone you can’t really trust, that’s not a good idea and you could, indeed, end up getting hurt.
Blaming other people or “life” for our unhappiness is very common – it’s natural to do that, because we don’t like to think we’re responsible – it’s a great way of opting out. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t solve anything.
I’m not sure about pretending to be happy – I’ve done it myself, sometimes to avoid making other people miserable, but those who know you well can often see through a thin veneer of cheerfulness. Having said that, it might sometimes be a way of cheering yourself up – the way we behave can certainly affect the way we feel. For example, one strategy for people who suffer from anxiety is just to “act confident”, walk tall etc. as if you’re playing the part of a really confident person. I’ve tried this, and it can be very effective. So “acting happy” isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Your mood can change in line with your behaviour, so I wouldn’t discount it.
I’m really sorry to hear you’ve been through such a tough and unhappy time, Mayura. I’ve had a few episodes like that in my own life, when I’ve felt absolutely paralysed by negative feelings and thoughts, and there’s plenty of stuff in my past I still feel crap about if I dwell on it. We’re all human, we all make mistakes – the trick is not to let those negative experiences and feelings dominate our present and jeopardise our future. As you so rightly say at the end of your comment, we’ve got to keep moving on – learn and move on.
I’m so pleased you feel you’re getting through this difficult time, Mayura and that things are improving. With all my heart, I hope that continues.
Take care – and I wish you every happiness, my friend 🙂
Hey Sue and Harleena,
My friends, it’s nice to be back here after a hiatus 😉
I’m really glad you had her as a guest blogger, Harleena. It’s “favorite on a favorite’s” blog 😉 The topic is very apt for her and also one I’d love to read right now too.
BTW I knew Sue was a nurse before, but didn’t know (I can’t recall) she was a “mental health” nurse :O
Spot on, Sue! 🙂 It’s always easy to say, but application is tough. We can never keep away from negativity, but can prevent ’em from barging into our mind. Isn’t it? I think it’s what I’ve done most of the time to keep myself cheer up 🙂
Sometimes, rather than trying to deal with negative feelings, it’s best to eliminate the root / cause before it possesses our mind and body. Well, I think so. It’s tricky ’cause I saw some teens who did try dealing with feelings end up being victims. What do you think about that Sue? Should we always need to deal with feelings, face-to-face? 🙂
I wish more people were aware of the second step you have mentioned. It’s a common scenario that people would love to push the responsibility to someone else. I can visualize some faces right now who are experts in their profession, but yet don’t practice their own advises 😀 lol… I know we all can’t follow every advice, but none-at-all is terrible.
I witnessed the very same example you have mentioned about rain yesterday Sue 🙂 They will keep repeating the same old thing, until someone points it out or figure it out by themselves.
What do you think about pretending to be happy? I read that it can make us more vulnerable than we imagine. I admit I did it few times with the intention of keeping others happy, and I’ll do it over again for anyone whom I trust too 🙂
Most lately I’ve been through a situation which I couldn’t cheer myself up Sue. I was responsible (May be too much), but yet made me vulnerable 🙂 I guess negative feelings were spread all over secretly. Felt like paralyzed 😀
I’m getting there slowly where I was and truly your post got me thinking. Anyway, I see the bright side too. Few milestones added to my life with first-time experiences. Always getting better 😉
As you said, it’s always “we are”, not someone else responsible for our own happiness 🙂 My tip would be, keep moving!
You both have happiness around ya, Sue and Harleena 🙂
You were blessed to have one wise college professor! And that saying certainly does go with this post – thanks so much for sharing it.
As you say, everything changes when we realise we have the ability to control our own emotions.
Thanks so much for your lovely comments 🙂
just like my college professor use to say “you’re quick to point the finger at me, but you have 3 fingers pointing back at you!” I will always remember this!
That saying goes with this post! When we own up to our feelings and see them, see these negative feelings as something temporary, then we’ll start to look at what feelings we can conjure up to override them. When you know and can actually feel that we have that much control, then our world will definitely be a different place. We would be more balanced with ourselves!
Thanks for the share!
Power tips! Acknowledge the negative feeling to expand your awareness. I buried many deep, dark emotions for years. Stuff I am letting out just now. Embrace ’em 😉
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks very much for your heartfelt feedback – it’s amazing how easy it is to bury those negative feelings and let them eat away at you – I’m sure other people will be able to relate to your experience. I know I can! It’s great that you’re now able to acknowledge and deal with those emotions.
Thanks, Ryan – appreciated 🙂
Excellent article! I enjoyed reading the steps on how to better deal with negative emotions. I think that everyone can benefit from reading it. In particular, I like step two on understanding that we can change the feeling that is within us.
I’m going to share and tweet this post!
Realising that we have the power to change the way we are feeling is so important – when the truth of that sinks in, it’s wonderful to realise that our happiness does not depend on external events or what other people do or say.
Many thanks for your kind feedback, and for sharing this post – greatly appreciated 🙂
What a wonderful surprise to see you here at Harleena’s place! Ah, this is a great post.
I always have some negative thought sneak into my head. I recognize it and right away I’ll stop what I’m doing and say a prayer.
I found what helps me keep those negative thoughts at bay is to just have positive energy around me. I love listening to gospel music so I’ll have it playing while I’m working. Just being in a great mood and realizing life is good regardless of how much I have or don’t have in my bank account.
When I was diagnosed with depression gosh about 10 years ago, I let that term get to me and for a while that defined me. My therapist would tell me you have to decide not to be sad…like you said, I was in control of my emotions. I could stop being isolated by just getting up and out of my room. It just takes that first step.
There have been times when I have set backs after all I’m only human but I do my best to bounce back before I get to that “dark” place.
Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips Sue. I hope you had a lovely start to the new week my friend!
I’m so sorry that you’ve suffered from depression – it’s hard to imagine, because you always seem so full of beans and so positive. It sounds as if you had a great therapist, though, who helped you to see that you had the power to control your own emotions. That’s a hard lesson to learn, because it means you have such a lot of hard work to do, yourself, in order to recover. I really admire you for having overcome your depression and continuing to work so hard to deal with your negative feelings.
I think for most people, dealing with negative emotions, including those dark moments of depression or anxiety, is an ongoing battle – it’s something we have to continue to work on. As you say, you’re only human, as are we all – and it’s natural to experience these feelings. The important thing is understanding how to deal with them when they arise – that includes recognising them for what they are, not identifying with them, and reminding yourself that they will pass.
I love the strategies you use to surround yourself with positive energy – they’re obviously very effective, because you come across as someone who has such a sunny disposition and a wonderfully positive outlook on life.
I hope your episodes of low mood are now few and far between, and I wish you all the happiness in the world.
Thanks so much for your kind feedback, Corina, and for sharing your experience so generously in this comment – I’m sure other readers will find what you’ve said helpful and inspiring 🙂
Yes, it’s an ongoing battle for sure especially when you’re having a bad day because there are triggers involved. But if we remember what our therapist taught us, we’ll be okay. Oh yes, my therapist was awesome.
Thanks Sue…I’m a happy person that’s true :). That’s the energy I want to get back so that’s what I give out :).
It was my pleasure sharing what works for me. I think we should all share our ideas, it could help someone else. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this post with us! Hope you’re having a great weekend my friend!
Many thanks, Corina – you spread so much joy in the blogosphere, you certainly deserve some for yourself. And I agree with you – one of the great things about blogging and commenting is the way people share their experiences and ideas and help each other out.
Thanks, again, for all your input to this post, Corina 🙂
Hi Ms. Sue and Ms. Harleena
What a wonderful post. Such an eye opener with great tools to challenge anyone, that happiness is possible.
Like Ms. Sylviane, I totally agree that our answers are “within”. Many people are looking for the know how to’s, but they think the solutions are external.
We cannot change the outer, but we can change how we feel.
Very impressive post.
Thank you Ms. Sue and Ms. Harleena
Thanks so much for your insightful comment – you’ve highlighted the most important point, in saying that the answers lie within ourselves. We often can’t influence external events, but we do have a choice about how we react to them – once we realise that, we have the key to a much happier existence.
Thanks very much, Gladys – I really appreciate your feedback 🙂
What a great topic! One we all have to deal with in life. When negative feelings creep up, the first thing I do is acknowledge them. Once I’ve done that, it doesn’t lay dormant in the subconscious mind or land somewhere in my body.
I’m glad you mentioned to never identify with that negative feeling. You only fuel it. “I’m depressed” “I’m not happy” etc. These are great affirmations to make yourself even more miserable.
One of the techniques I use is deep yoga breathing…you know breath into the belly, hold it for a few seconds, and blow out. While I hold my breath for a few seconds I give myself a positive affirmation. Something like I’m at peace with the universe…..It depends on the negative emotion, I replace it with a positive one.
After 10 minutes or so, I’m OK again and can go on my merry way!
It sounds as if you have a great strategy for dealing with your negative feelings. Just acknowledging them in the first place is a huge and important first step – as you say, that’s important so they don’t fester and create other problems.
And yes, it’s so important not to add fuel to the fire by identifying with those destructive feelings. We need to avoid making the kind of statements about ourselves that give us those negative labels.
Your deep breathing technique, combined with positive affirmations, sounds very effective – thanks for sharing that with us.
Many thanks for your comments, Donna – appreciated 🙂
Well hey there Sue! What a wonderful surprise to find you here at Harleena’s blog. And what great advice you shared with us today.
Life is about taking responsibility for our actions. It starts with owning up to the fact that we all make mistakes. No one is perfect but the lessons start with us. Blaming others gets you nowhere. I use to do that too some years ago, I was in these circumstances because of other people. That’s a mistake a lot of people make.
I think you did an excellent job of explaining this. You’re like Sylviane, you give great examples that people can understand easily so how can you not “get it”.
Thanks again and I’ll be sharing this one for sure. You ladies have a wonderful week now.
I must say, it’s very strange, but very nice to be here – I’m very grateful to Harleena for inviting me to contribute to her wonderful blog.
I think we often have an inclination to blame other people or events for our unhappiness. As you say, that gets us nowhere. True growth is about learning to accept responsibility for ourselves, including our feelings and our behaviour.
Thanks so much for your feedback, Adrienne – I really appreciate it and I’m so pleased you think the examples are helpful.
I hope you’re having a great week, too 🙂
Hi Sue; So nice to see you here at Harleena’s blog.
What you say is very helpful and I will try to incorporate this thinking more, especially the part about not identifying with the feeling. Am frequently guilty of that one! A few years ago, I went through a prolonged period of extreme anxiety; looking after my dying father and my mother, who was also incapable of looking after herself. During one of the worst moments, a friend gave me some great advice: “Just remember, it’s only temporary and life will get better again”. This has stuck with me and I now have a more positive outlook on things.
Hey Debbie – it’s great to be here, and lovely to see some familiar faces!
I have to say, you’ve always struck me as having a very positive outlook on life.
I’m sure you’re not alone in identifying with your feelings as happened when you went through that period of severe anxiety – I can certainly relate to that. It sounds as if you had a very stressful time caring for your parents. But your friend gave you great advice, and it’s good that his or her words of wisdom have stayed with you.
Just that one simple strategy, reminding yourself that hard times and difficult feelings will pass, is a great way to get things into perspective. Of course, I think dogs can help, too 🙂
Thanks for sharing your experience, Debbie – I really appreciate your feedback and contribution 🙂
This was an awesome post. I completely agree with everything you said. I use to have anger and depression issues but I realized that, those feelings were not me. They were simply a creation of my environment, so I spent a few years changing that around, and low and behold I have found the true value of life.
But I really liked this post, you are very knowledgable and I appreciate the great info!
It’s wonderful that you’ve already discovered the power of these principles in your own life and recognised that those feelings of anger and depression were not really “you”.
Thanks so much for sharing your own experience – I really value your insightful comment 🙂
I’m so grateful to you for that feedback, because I’m aware I’m playing “away from home” as it were, in this post, and that this is much more your area of expertise than mine!
It sounds as if the client you mention is a good example of someone who is suffering greatly because he has not yet grasped these basic truths – as you say, it’s so easy to blame other people, “fate”, or the world for our problems. The trouble is, apart from maybe enjoying having a good old self-pitying moan, that perspective doesn’t get us anywhere at all.
I hate the way doctors talk like that about patients, too – reducing people to the identity of a disease. It’s obscene, and I share your desire to give them a good kicking for it! It’s particularly damaging in the field of mental illness, labelling someone as “demented” or “depressive” or “schizophrenic” – a horribly demeaning way to think and talk about people.
Thanks for your lovely comments, Sylviane – greatly appreciated 🙂
Absolutely fantastic post Sue,
You are so right on and I agree with everything you’re saying here.
Recently I told one of my clients that I will not longer be able to help him if he keeps on blaming external things for his mental state of unhappiness border line depression, because every week he tells me the same old things.
The reason I told him that is that no coaching can help someone who will never come to get a grip with the fact that they have to look inward, not outward. Everyone should read this, and finally get it.
I know, it’s so much easier to blame the world while we’re saying poor me. I should know, I used to do this a LOT, but it really takes us nowhere. The more we do this, the least likely we’ll advanced in life. I know that for my personal experience.
Owning the feelings that we’re feeling is bad indeed. It’s like when doctors point to a person in a hospital and name that person as the disease. I would want to ask those doctors to take some psychology courses, right after I kick them in the butt 🙂 But we do that to ourselves when it comes to negative feelings , and we must stop doing this by any mean. I used to do this too myself, and I know I don’t anymore as well.
Oh boy, there’s so much to tell on this subject.
Thanks for writing about this, Sue and nice to see you here at Harleena’s.
Hi Sue and Harleena,
You took me back to to late 90’s when I was going through the initial career struggles as soon as I came out of college. It was a rough phase where I was frustrated because I did not see any way out very soon.
So, what do you do in that situation? (of course, you still need to have courage to not give up and fortunately I always had that). Well, I turned spiritual and in the process, I came across a book by Osho in Hindi which I paraphrase in English as “Footpath to God”. It was one of the best books I’ve ever read apart from ‘Bhagavad Gita’. I still remember things I learnt through the book.
Well, your post, teaches some of those principles I read in the book. Not identifying yourself with the problem, not identifying yourself with things that are happening with your atmosphere, people and even to your body. You are not your body. You are not what is happening to your. You are bigger than that and you are much powerful than you think you are.
Wow! I enjoyed being here today. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks so much for your inspirational comment, and especially for sharing the fact that the principles outlined in this post chime so closely with those you learned and found so helpful on your own spiritual journey. I think these fundamental truths often transcend religious and cultural boundaries.
I’m very grateful for your generous and enthusiastic feedback – thank you 🙂
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say people have a choice about how they feel. The biggest problem arises when we’re unaware of that and feel at the mercy of our emotions.
Thanks so much for your wise, insightful comments, Shalu – appreciated 🙂
Happiness is a feeling and it’s all down to individuals how they choose to live and feel. The sooner they realize this, the better it is. I love your suggestions on dealing with negative emotions. You cannot be more right by saying that you change and everything changes. There is a lot of hidden sublime messages in it. Thanks for this wonderful and useful post.
That’s really helpful! I too undergo negativity sometimes, but I take my own time to deal with it. I am a lot better today than I was five or seven years back. My basic nature is to blurt out, confide in or simply pray about it. But yes, the truth is that feelings are just feelings – they have got nothing to do with reality.
It’s great that you feel you’re dealing with your negative feelings better now than you were a few years ago. The really positive thing is that you’re aware of your own negativity and realise that those negative feelings don’t form an essential part of your reality. That awareness is the key to overcoming them.
Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Renuka – I wish you every happiness 🙂
Very solid practical advice. In truth, the whole world is inside us. Like you’re saying, we can be upset all day about something that happened … even when the other person isn’t physically HERE. Which shows us the problem is in us and must be solved within us. Emotions can be so helpful if we use them for transformation instead of just being miserable. Thanks for the post 🙂
I love the expression you’ve used there, “the whole world is inside us” – that’s so true. It’s similar to a phrase I often use to remind myself of the source of my own reality: “you are what you think”.
The power of our minds, for good or ill, is indeed incredible. I find it sad that so many people’s lives are blighted because they’re trapped within the prison of their own negative emotions. As you say, the trick is to harness the positive, transformative power of our emotions.
Many thanks for your insightful comment 🙂
Welcome to the blog Erika!
Yes indeed, this IS great advice shared by Sue, and I’m glad you liked it 🙂
I agree with you there, and most of the time the problem lies within us but we never want to introspect or even if we do, we tend to ignore it. The rest of course, Sue’s mentioned in her reply to you. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views with us 🙂
Hi and thank you for this 4-step program. I really need this one and Step Three really hit me hard. I have a tendency to feel depressed and sometimes I identify myself as a depressed person. It’s good to be reminded that our emotions don’t define who we are – as you say, “we are much more than that” Thanks for the wonderful article.
Lovely to meet you here. I’m sorry to hear you sometimes suffer from a depressed mood and hope the tips here will help you to overcome those feelings when they arise.
Many thanks for so kindly letting me know you’ve found this article helpful – I really appreciate your feedback 🙂
Thanks Sue Neal for this great article on Aha-Now.
I guess it’s your first post here, so I wish to welcome you to this great blog.
Most time the reason for unhappiness for some people is as a result of low self-esteem. This is bound to affect anyone negatively, bringing so much unhappiness and sometimes hatred to the victim.
Experience has thought me that the only to overcome low self-esteem is by counting your blessing and realizing your potentials.
I love your statement “stop thinking your cup’s half empty and realise it’s half full”
Thinking you cannot do it, is admitting failure itself. Go for it and believe in yourself! – That’s the key to boundless happiness!
Many thanks for the warm welcome!
You’re right to point out that low self-esteem is the source of a great deal of human misery. But people who have low self-esteem are usually identifying with negative ideas about themselves – Winifred has given a great example of this in her comment, citing people who say things like “I’m fat”.
The way out of low self-esteem is to recognise those negative thoughts for what they are and to stop labelling yourself as such – as you say, to realise your true potential.
Thanks very much for your insightful, sensitive comment, Ebenezer – appreciated 🙂
You’ve got quit a great post and your analysis are thorough I must say…however, I don’t like the way you ended the post.
I was expecting practical steps to tackle the bad feeling one is having because of the rain (or any challenge for that matter). Suggestions such as mental affirmations, avoiding negative company, reading something positive (and challenging) every morning, mental picturing etc would have been just perfect.
I challenge you, Sue, to finish this post and grant us the honor by posting it here.
Otherwise, great and inspiring post.
Do have a great weekend!
Thanks very much for your feedback. I’m very sorry you feel the post is incomplete, but the aim was not to provide the sort of specific behavioural advice you suggest – there are many other articles online, and I think probably here on Harleena’s blog, that cover exactly the kind of things you mention.
This post is specifically about the need to become aware of the true nature of our negative feelings, to see them for what they are and to realise that we have it in our power to influence the way we feel. Specific strategies, such as you suggest, may indeed be very helpful – but all the efforts at “positive thinking” in the world will be futile if we lack this basic awareness of the nature of our negative thoughts and don’t believe we can control the way we feel.
As I’ve said in the post, the way you tackle your bad feeling about the rain is, for a start, to stop telling yourself – stop believing – that the rain is ‘making’ you miserable – to realise that your feelings are your responsibility and that you have a choice how to respond to the weather, your bad-tempered spouse, your grumpy kids or whatever.
It’s all about AWARENESS – when you achieve that level of awareness about your own emotional state, the things you need to do to change it (which will vary for all of us, depending on our individual situations) should become clear – to provide detailed examples would be another post altogether 🙂
Many thanks for your thoughtful comment – and I hope you’re also having a wonderful weekend 🙂
Thank you for this valuable advice.
I especially like the third point, not identifying with the feeling. It’s amazing how powerful our words are.
Makes me think of how people say “I’m fat” — same way of making it a self-definition and a permanent state.
One of my best strategies for dealing with negative feelings is to remember that everything changes. How I feel now will change, my circumstances will change. Helps me keep my challenges in perspective.
It’s lovely to meet you here on Harleena’s blog and I’m very grateful to you for your perceptive comment. The example you’ve given of people saying things like “I’m fat” is an excellent illustration – it’s so sad and damaging when we label ourselves in that way.
As you say, just refusing to identify with those negative feelings is a powerful way to change our whole outlook on life.
Thanks Winifred 🙂
Hello Sue and welcome to Harleena’s blog,
This post is indeed one good one and every blogger or blog reader reading this will surely relate to it one way or another.
Pushing negative feelings – In life, i always have doubting feelings and sometimes negative feelings. but as feeling is concern, i always having 2 sides – the good and the bad side…
How i survive myself is; never let negativity get in the way of your happiness
Like my pops would say, if two people talk the same negative things about you, then you need to change. At some point in my life i stop telling people what’s truly in my mind because when i tell them, they might pick offense and never talked to me. Telling people the harsh truth might be great for me but for those i am telling, its not. So i drop and decide to change that attitude :).
All what you shared with us today is the main truth and we all should follow. To be happy, you need to let go of negativity, change your attitude, do what you feel like and how you feel like doing it (except you’re working for someone :)). I am the most happiest man on earth…
Thanks for the wonderful post and do have a great weekend ahead both of you…
It sounds to me as if you have a great attitude and have already given this issue a lot of thought. What your pop said about listening to other people’s views about you is interesting – I think it’s always helpful to be open to criticism, because other people often see weaknesses and flaws we fail to see in ourselves.
When people do say negative things about you, it’s natural to react, at least initially, with feelings such as disappointment or anger or embarrassment, but as long you follow the four steps set out in this post, those feelings won’t last, and won’t get the better of you.
I agree with you that we have to be careful about criticising others openly – constructive criticism can be helpful, though, provided it’s provided in a caring, sensitive way.
It’s great that you have such a positive, happy outlook on life, Babanature – thanks so much for sharing your perspective on this and for leaving such a thoughtful (and happy!) comment 🙂
Welcome to Aha!NOW as a guest blogger! It’s wonderful to have you over. You’re one of those wise bloggers out there who writes meaningful posts and useful comments. I’m so glad that you decided to share such great thoughts with all of us.
Who doesn’t want to be happy, in fact, that’s the purpose of our life, isn’t it? But little do we consider that taking care of our negative emotions in a skillful manner can unleash happiness in your life.
How true that we at times try to ignore or not accept our negative feelings. It’s so important to deal with them lest it harms you.
You make two important points that strike me – the negative emotions remain within you, but it’s not part of external reality and never identifies with the negative feelings.
I believe in change and that it can do miracles for you. Yes, you can change your life when you change.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and experiments with life – these simple four steps can deliver us happiness for life. I’m sure my readers are just going to love interacting with you, so – it’s all between you and them now. 🙂
It’s a huge honour to be featured on your blog – I’m very grateful to you for allowing me to share this post with your readers.
As you say, we all crave happiness, but we tend to want it to fall in our lap, failing to realise that the key lies in our own hands, in taking responsibility for our own emotions.
I think the points you’ve highlighted are really important, but sometimes difficult to grasp, because they can seem contradictory – it’s about recognising our negative feelings aren’t part of external reality – they’re within us – BUT they’re not an essential part of us.
Like you, I believe that change really is possible, and I think one of the most powerful ways to change our lives for the better is to get to grips with our negative feelings and recognise them for what they are, rather than allowing them to overwhelm and control us.
Thanks so much, Harleena – I’m delighted to have this opportunity to interact with your readers.
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