Reframing Beliefs Around “Negative” Feelings

There are various forms of psychotherapies or therapies in general that revolve around the idea of reframing thoughts or beliefs. I find these therapies to be interesting, because I’ve had success with using them myself to change my behaviors or overall feelings about myself. Some of these therapies however frame certain emotions or feelings as being “negative”. They try to eliminate feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, doubt, fear etc. I wonder if this is really necessary though, or if it is just contributing to more avoidant or destructive behaviors when these feelings do arise.

In college, I was introduced to this idea of removing limiting beliefs. With the help of an expert, I was able to remove several limiting beliefs that hindered my self-confidence or sense of ability/worth. All these negative feelings that I once had were now completely gone. It seemed life-changing. It honestly was great because I felt a lot better about myself in general. But the thing is with this particular method of removing limiting beliefs, they would frame “fear” or “anger” as negative or unnecessary, something that we “should” actively work to get rid of. Your behaviors would then be influenced by the new positive emotions that you would form. I think it’s awesome when you can work from state of positivity, but then wouldn’t all the “negative” emotions essentially be useless? Are we supposed to act solely out of positive emotions?

It’s one thing if the reaction or emotion is extreme and you’re trying to lower the intensity. But, it’s another thing when a slight irritation or a normal sense of fear holds you back from moving forward. What if instead of removing the source of negative emotion, we plan out a set of actions that help the situation?

I think learning what to do in the moment of negative emotions is better than just trying to get rid of the emotion. I mean even with positive emotions, we have to be mindful. Some people make rash decisions when they are excited, for example. Some people mindlessly get into dangerous situations when they are content, not really paying attention to what’s going on around them. And of course with negative emotions, some people exhibit violent behaviors or verbally abuse people when angry. What if we planned out what to do in these situations before these moments arise?

When someone says something that causes you to become angry or upset, you could plan out what to say. You could state how you feel and what bothered you, without necessarily blaming the other person. You could also offer a solution. For example, let’s say a friend tells you that you’re making an assumption, and you feel upset by this. You could say, “I feel hurt by what you said. I feel judged. I don’t like that you’re saying I’m making an assumption, as I find that insulting and I would never say that about you. Instead, I wish you would ask me what my thought process was in this situation.” Or let’s say when you get upset, you have trouble finding the right words to say. You could plan out what to say any time this situation occurs. For example, “I’m upset and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, I will talk to you later when I figure out why I feel this way.”

I feel like a lot of us learn how to make situations worse when dealing with negative feelings. Some people are exposed to violence. Some people are exposed to hateful language. Some people learn to avoid situations, never truly resolving them. And, this doesn’t just apply to my example of anger. It can apply to any negative emotion.

Think of people who deal with anxiety or depression. Yes, of course these people could try removing limiting beliefs. I even encourage it. At the same time, we want to teach them to deal with these feelings in healthy ways. Sometimes even, just accepting the feeling and learning how to cope with it helps to reduce the feeling itself. This happens when we decide to tackle our fears. Confidence comes from engagement and taking action.

We want to make sure we are taking the best course of action regardless of how we are feeling. This is also a part of emotional intelligence. If we experience negative emotions on a regular basis, of course, removing limiting beliefs is helpful. Otherwise, it is best to learn how to respond during the times we feel these emotions. Learn to cope with all your feelings in healthy ways.

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