Our Negative Emotions Are More Useful Than You Think
4 min read

Younger, I was as ignorant about negative emotions as someone could be. 

Without exaggeration, I would give myself a zero in emotional literacy.

I was considering the negative emotions as the enemy to suppress. 

And, of course, I failed to suppress them splendidly. 

With aging, I got slightly better at understanding my negative emotions. 

To be emotionally illiterate comes with a price. And I’m not willing to pay a high price anymore. 

For this reason, I pay much more attention to my negative emotions than I did in the past. 

Whenever a negative emotion shows up, my first question is: What are you trying to communicate to me? 

The Map, The Emotions, And You  

Negative Emotions are our internal compass
Photo by N. on Unsplash

For most of us, the sensitivity to negative emotions is greater than the one we have for positive emotions. 

We are more interested in being free of pain than in gaining pleasure. 

So it’s essential to know about how negative emotions impact our decisions and choices in life. 

Imagine you are standing on a map. Your motivation helped you set a goal. 

Now you have a starting point and a destination. These two points form your path. 

Emotions are the feedback you receive while walking the path. 

While positive emotions keep us moving, the negative ones signal an obstacle on the path. 

Sounds like emotions are useful, right? 

But the problem begins when we don’t understand what these negative emotions are communicating.  

Therefore, we might abandon a rewarding path for something lesser. 

What Is The Purpose of Negative Emotions?  

Negative emotions include traits like frustration, disappointment, grief, pain, threat, uncertainty, and anxiety. 

We attribute negativity to them, but it’s only true to a certain extend. 

Any so-called negative emotion stops being negative when we know how to exploit it. 

On the road, negative emotions are like panels signaling dangers of various levels. 

It tells you to act carefully. Either we need to pay attention to a particular obstacle or we need to find another way to reach our destination. 

Either way, negative emotions are here to protect us from greater pain and suffering. 

But when we are overwhelmed by negative emotions, they become a problem to solve. Instead of facilitating the way to our goals, they become a burden. 

For instance, a frustration, which is supposed to defend us, might grow into depression and debilitate us. 

How Do We Deal with Negative Emotions?  

The most common ways to deal with negative emotions are either avoidance or denial. 

Avoidance is an interesting one. 

Imagine a herd of impala trying to avoid the fear of predators.  

They would need to stay away from the rich grasslands and water points. 

By doing so, the probability to die thirsty and hungry become much higher than dying from a predator. 

In reality, the impalas use their emotions to adapt themselves to the environment and increase their chances of survival. 

When we want to avoid negative emotions, we limit our lifestyle where they are not activated. 

By doing so, we reduce our choices dramatically and put ourselves in danger. 

With denial, it’s different. 

We are aware that we have negative emotions, but we pretend they are not there. 

Denial is the equivalent of locking a little monster in a cage and keeping feeding it. 

It grows bigger and bigger until it frees itself. Then, it becomes harder to deal with. 

The best way to deal with negative emotions is to learn from them and use them. 

That’s why they are there in the first place.  

They are the internal compass that guides us toward achieving our goals. 

The Message Behind Negative Emotions  

In Awaken The Giant Within, Tony Robbins listed the meaning behind our most common negative emotions.

Here are some of them: 

Fear signals that we are not ready for what’s coming, so we need to start preparing. 

Anger shows up when one of our fundamental values has been violated by others or ourselves. 

Frustration is communicating our potential. It says that we can do better than what we’re currently doing. 

Hurt means that we didn’t get what we expected from a person. If we don’t communicate about it, it can grow into a more intense emotion. 

Guilt is an alert system that calls for immediate action. It tells us we have broken one of our highest rules. 

Inadequacy is the feeling of imbalance between what you need to do and your actual level of skills. It calls to level up your understanding, competence, or confidence. 

Overload or overwhelmed tells us that we have too much on our plate. It happens when we have a thousand priorities and we try to do all of them at once. The underlying message is to focus on the most important. 

Final Thoughts  

“Those who believe and whose hearts are content by the remembrance of Allah. Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts become calm.” [Quran 13:28] 

The remembrance of Allah calms down the hearts filled with negative emotions. 

Instead of being at the mercy of our emotions, we regain control over them. 

We enter a state of tranquility. 

In this state, we can efficiently use our tools (instinct, emotions, intellect) to navigate all kinds of situations. 

Islam always shoots for moderation, even in the matter of emotions.  

Any excess in the negative emotions can lead to unnecessary errors, downs in performance, and stop our consistency. 

Tranquility is the ideal state in which we want to be. 

Article posted the 27 June 2021

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