The Art of Processing Negative Feelings [HMHE Podcast – Ep 9]

by Nov 8, 2022

Show Notes – 009: The Art of Feeling Uncomfortable

We all experience negative feelings and uncomfortable emotions each and every day, and yet most of us have never been taught how to process our emotions in a healthy way. We often try to avoid emotions such as sadness, loneliness, guilt, shame, and anger. But these feelings are a normal, natural, and essential part of our human experience.

This week on the podcast I discuss why emotional processing is especially important for us activists and advocates, the effects of suppressed emotions, how we can un-numb and regain our passion, and how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way.

Below is a brief outline of the episode. Tune in wherever you get your podcasts (or listen above) for the full discussion and my personal experiences.

Why is it so important to deal with negative feelings?

As activists, advocates, and changemakers we tend to be more acutely aware of the state of the climate crisis and injustice throughout the world. To cope with this knowledge we can choose to acknowledge our emotions or to numb out.

But, negative feelings are essential for our mental health.

By mastering the art of feeling uncomfortable we can consistently take more courageous action because we won’t be paralyzed by the fear of experiencing negative feelings such as embarrassment, shame, or judgment. We’ll know that we can feel deeply and come out the other side okay… maybe even stronger!

Choosing to numb out often leads to burnout and a passionless life. When we numb out the bad emotions we’re also numbing out the good. Our passion for life and our capacity to feel all the wonderful, positive emotions is also diminished.

Why are we so out of touch with how we’re feeling?

Our culture has conditioned us to believe, from a very young age, that expressing our feelings is not acceptable or safe. Instead of being taught how to deal with negative feelings our teachers tell us to sit down, raise our hands, and only speak if we’re called on.

Many of us have been raised in a culture that doesn’t value emotions or equip us with the knowledge and tools we need to deal with our feelings in a healthy way. So as a species, we’ve lost our emotional intelligence.

And unfortunately, a lot of mainstream self-development advice is adding to the problem! Oftentimes people in new-age spirituality and self-development circles talk about “raising your vibe” so that bad things will no longer happen to you. But no matter how evolved we are situations will happen in our life that trigger uncomfortable emotions. We can try to deny this part of our life experience or we can live in reality.

Please know that you’re not wrong for having negative feelings. Our culture is wrong for telling you that it’s not okay to feel.

Feeling your feelings is one of the bravest things that you can do, and an act of resistance.

“Negative feelings” Don’t Actually Exist

No emotion is inherently bad or good. Feelings such as fear, anger, jealousy, envy, shame, and sadness are innate and often automatic. We have evolved to have these emotions for a reason and they are important for our survival.

You can read more about what emotions actually are and why we evolved to have them in this article: How to Process Emotions: An Ayurvedic Approach.

We often encounter uncomfortable feelings when we’re near our growth edge. They provide an opportunity to grow, learn more about ourselves, and build resilience, self-trust, and confidence. Uncomfortable emotions, when acknowledged and respected, can be a gift!

However, if we choose to continuously suppress our emotions we will run into problems.

Symptoms of Suppressed Emotions

  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Low immunity
  • Chronic pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Low energy
  • Incorrect understanding
  • Feelings of hopelessness, overwhelm, apathy, or confusion
  • A lack of passion for life
  • Overreacting or underreacting to situations
  • Burnout

Allowing ourselves to feel negative feelings is incredibly important for our mental and physical health. If we want to be agents of change we need to know how to process our emotions.

Emotions are a Process

Most of us are taught that emotions are a state or event that we can pinpoint. This is incorrect. They are a process. Modern scientists are still working to define what emotions are exactly. However, we do know that an emotion is an activation of the brain and nervous system in response to an experience or circumstance (a stimulus).

According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, emotions are a reaction and food for the mind.

Each emotion is a full-body experience that includes our mind, hormones, and nervous system.

I like to think of emotions as a wave.

The Emotional Wave

  1. Stimulus
  2. Emotion rises
  3. Emotion peaks
  4. Emotion falls
  5. Felt safety (safe and social)

Problems occur when we’re not able to complete the full process for one reason or another. The emotion gets stuck!

How to Process Negative Feelings

  1. Observe and feel the feeling as it rises
  2. Allow your body to respond through movement
  3. Observe and feel the feeling as it falls
  4. Note any shifts in your body or mind
  5. Cultivate a sense of felt safety

In the episode, I go through each of these steps in detail, pinpoint where we often get stuck, and share strategies to help you get unstuck.

What about old emotional baggage?

Scientific research has shown that not only does this process work to release current emotions but old emotional baggage as well. We can visualize a past experience and reignite the feelings we were having at that moment. By doing this we can reactivate the emotional wave, consciously finish the process, and release the emotion.

And it gets even better. The research also shows that we don’t actually need to know where our stuck emotions originated from in order to process them.

When we move with awareness of our body whether we’re doing yoga, running, or kickboxing, we can release old, stuck emotions. In this case, our awareness plus the movement reactivates crystalized emotions.

For example, I’ve noticed this happening when doing yoga. One minute I’m feeling just fine and enjoying my stretch and a moment later I’m in tears because emotion has arisen as if from nowhere.

So by incorporating conscious movement into your regular routine you can continuously release old emotional baggage.

Time to Practice

Mastering the art of feeling uncomfortable takes practice! When I first started to get back in touch with my emotions I often just felt numb. But with practice, emotional processing can become second nature.

Even once we’ve mastered this process we will still experience resistance. I’ve been doing this for years, and still, from time to time difficult life situations elicit “negative feelings” that I don’t really want to feel. But, I know how important this is to my physical and mental health so I gently guide myself through the above process even though it’s uncomfortable.

By fully experiencing our emotions and processing them we can live life to the fullest, and therefore make a positive contribution to this world while truly enjoying the journey.

I hope that this podcast episode was super helpful for you!

Let’s connect!

Download the FREE Self-care for Changemakers guide to learn how to be an agent of change without sacrificing your health!

Please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

Want to learn more about the topics discussed on the podcast and practice them so that you can become a more effective changemaker? Join us when doors open for the Becoming the Change group life coaching program + community.

Feedback? Topic suggestions? Ah-ha moments? I’d love to hear from you!

Please email me at hello@theevapeterson.com

Thanks for listening and/or reading!

Featured image: Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash

Podcast music: “Bounce” by Coma-Media on Pixbay

Welcome! I'm Eva, creator of the Happy Me Happy Earth podcast & blog. This is a place for aspiring changemakers, experienced activists, environmentalists, and social entrepreneurs to learn, heal, and get inspired. As a certified Ayurvedic Counselor and Life Coach, I'm here to support you in expanding your impact while you thoroughly enjoy life!

FREE GUIDE
Self-care for Changemakers:
Be an Agent of Change Without Sacrificing Your Health