Are negative emotions as bad as they seem?
On the need to value negative emotions as they deserve.
How long have we had the idea that negative emotions are bad? That is, to what extent have we been educated that the "negative" (or what seems negative) has to be avoided, minimized or suppressed?
Surely this education has always had a noble purpose, with the intention to help or to inculcate the intention of helping or inculcating a positive attitude towards life.. However, there is a large number of people for whom this idea of "rejection of the bad" has turned out to be double-edged.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about emotions, and several topics in psychology that had been wanting to take the air for some time have been brought up. Therefore, it does not hurt to clarify concepts. To give a definition, and starting from the Rational Emotive Therapy founded by Professor Albert Ellis, emotions are understood as mental, physiological and behavioral events or occurrences.
In other words, they can be understood as concrete physiological activations to which our mind and body put a label.. It is thus accepted that emotions have a specific function, and the difference between "negative" and "positive" is given by their usefulness, both to the world and to ourselves (let us not forget the latter).
For example, the sadnesswhich is generally considered as negative, becomes especially useful at the moment when it is necessary to unburden ourselves or to unload emotionally in the face of a conflict that we do not know how to resolve. That is to say, it could be positive.
However, it would become negative when it is provoked by an irrational idea, no longer serves as an outlet, or makes it more difficult for us to achieve our goals.
What are dysfunctional emotions called?
If we differentiate between positive y negative at the point at which they cease to be useful, it would be beneficial to know whether those we normally label as negative really are. Here are some examples:
Worry vs. Anxiety.
It is absolutely different to wish something would not happen (worry) than to eliminate the possibility of it happening ("this can't happen and if it does it will be fatal"). It seems like only a slight difference, but it becomes huge the moment you need to deal with an anxiogenic situation. Bad nerves can turn a slight worry into a world of fright, which on the other hand makes it impossible to cope with anything.
Therefore, the uselessness of anxiety is obvious, at least on an internal level, which is very different from being activated or worried.
Sadness vs. depression
The line between the two may seem fine, but on a mental level (remember the mental dimension of emotions), the depressive state has a strong component of devaluation, i.e., of mistreatment of oneself ("I am worthless, I am nothing"). The time and intensity dimensions are also different, although these parameters are much more individual.
It should be noted that depressive mood does not refer to depression as a clinical problem, but as a state of mind, which is not only unhelpful, but also quite harmful.
Anger with oneself vs. Guilt
These two emotions are sometimes represented more as an evolution than as different states. That is, one gets angry with oneself, and then begins to feel guilty about what one has been angry about. The self-devaluation is very common here, and as has already been intuited, it is of no use whatsoever.
The guilt is the protagonist of an enormous number of clinical psychological problems. A poorly managed feeling of guilt can generate ways of thinking that are absolutely harmful to the person, unlike anger with oneself, from which learning can emerge.
Anger vs. Anger
While the former can be a logical and indeed healthy reaction to a possible disagreement, it is the move to anger that turns it negative. In anger, from simple annoyance, one moves to devaluing the other, which is typically the case on busy traffic days, or when people get on each other's nerves; in either case, anger is never helpful in resolution, is never helpful in resolving the conflict..
In addition, anger uses an enormous amount of mental and emotional resources, more than we often have. Anger at a disagreement relaxes emotional and mental tension, while anger produces more of both.
Double negative, please!
It seems that perhaps it is not so necessary to avoid the "bad". However, the escape from it is logical; after all, neither of the above emotions arenone of the above-mentioned emotions are pleasant, whether they are functional or not.. But, even if none of them brings a smile or a laugh in itself, at the psychological level there comes the point where the most obvious question arises:
To be happy, or to be mentally healthy, does one always have to be happy?
The emotion of negative valence (and I mean the one that produces a negative mood, regardless of its usefulness), before having this valence, is emotion. We defined this term earlier. It has only been missing to add that emotions are human, i.e. humans are designed to create, experience and ultimately live all kinds of emotions, both negative and positive.both negative and positive. And it turns out that sometimes, seeking to escape the unpleasant mood, we end up living one that hurts us even more.
In consultation, the question "why me?" is constantly repeated. The answer is simply that negative affect (but possibly functional) emotions occur. Admitting and reconciling oneself to the fact that one is capable of feeling bad. that one is capable of feeling bad, and may also need it, is simply to realize that one is human.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)