Recently we’ve been talking about NLP and how we can control our emotions so they don’t control us, and how we can find peak states from which to perform in our lives. Yet I also want you to know that you can consciously choose to turn toward a negative emotion for the purpose of learning from it.
First let’s explore why all emotions are necessary, then look at some examples of how to do this, then we’ll end with how to know the right time to do so.
The long line of survivors
We come from a long line of survivors. Since before humans were even human, the genetic code you currently carry was in existence, being passed from one generation to the next.
Through each line of evolution, the beings before you managed to survive past puberty against all the odds stacked against them. They used their instincts, intuition and thinking minds to make it through war, famine, illness and natural dangers. Once they had made it, they were able to reproduce and pass on what they used to survive.
They passed on their DNA to create you and me. In that DNA is everything they relied on to survive. There is the instinct, the intuition and a whole rage of emotions that guided them on their journey. There was fear anger, rage and cunning to protect from danger and learn to fight or flee. There was lust and love to reproduce and create the clans that would keep themselves and the young safe. There was loneliness so they would know to stick together. Energy, creativity, enthusiasm and joy so that they would have a strong will to live to the fullest.
All emotions are necessary
All of these emotions are necessary to us now, even the ones we tend to call bad. If they weren’t, they would not have been passed on. However uncomfortable they are, we need fear and anger and shame. We need disappointment and frustration. We even need denial. We need them because they teach us the way through life.
Usually we turn away from the so-called negative emotions because they aren’t enjoyable to feel. We may also have ideas about how we are supposed to act and be: like strong, courageous or kind, so we hide whatever isn’t that because we want to feel accepted.
There is another way to look at our negative emotions that can be truly powerful and transformative. This new way is to understand that negative emotions are a path to learning.
Negative emotions are a path to learning
What this means is that when we feel so-called negative emotions arise, we can turn toward the feeling and ask, what is this feeling trying to tell me? What is the lesson in this experience?
A good example of this is if you are feeling lonely. We often try to squish feelings of loneliness because they aren’t sexy by current societal standards. This has led to our current epidemic of isolation, anxiety and depression. If we were to sit back and acknowledge: is this simply a survival lesson that as humans we are happier together, what would we find?
There could be multiple lessons to learn from this, such as how can I increase my connections with other humans? How can I listen better, interact more freely? Perhaps the lesson is how to feel more comfortable in your own skin so you are not worried about rejection. Or perhaps you could learn better boundaries so that you can be in relationship without exhaustion. The lesson could even be about how to be more comfortable alone. The point is, you will never have access to that lesson if you don’t accept and turn toward the emotion.
There are other lessons you could learn from negative emotions, such as
Can I do this alone?
If this sounds difficult, you’re right. It is. I recommend that if the emotion is pervasive or overwhelming (such as depression) we do this process with the support with a therapist and the loved one’s around us.
Let’s take depression (which is a more concrete expression of sadness) as an example of how and when we might seek help. I often equate depression to an injury, like a broken leg. Looked at it this way we can see what we need to heal
If we’ve broken a leg we need to
With the right structure for healing around us we will be able to look toward the lesson in even the most uncomfortable emotions. If we can’t, then we won’t reap the benefit of learning, growing and enriching our lives.
When is the right time?
I believe in a balanced approach to life. There is a metronome between performing and rest. As much as we need to get out there and go for it, we also need reflection, grief, and quiet. Turning toward the negative emotion (with or without therapy) is for those times in your life when you wish to learn lessons, be introspective, or understand yourself and humanity. It is in introspection where we look into the nature of our life and the world.
As we have talked about over the last two weeks controlling emotions and finding peak states are for those time when we are feeling resilient, energetic and desiring performance. Whether we do this alone or with a coach, it is for those time when we want to improve our life and feel equipped to do so. NLP skills are all about getting results, bouncing back from difficulty, and controlling emotions so you can perform in peak state.
Using coaching and NLP methods you can actually perform at 100%, but in my opinion this is not sustainable: at some point you will crash. This is part of the metronome, or balance, of life. We need to know when is the right time to perform and when to sit back and rest.
I like to explain it this way: Coaching and NLP are for when we feel resilient, even if life is difficult or needs improvement. Therapy is also for those times when we are lacking resiliency, having breakdowns or feeling overwhelmed. In these times we can really have the support to embrace what we are feeling, allow it to be as it is, and learn from the lesson.