Anger, rage, sadness, despair, anguish… all of these are emotions and sensations that are not exactly pleasant for us and that involve the suffering of a certain malaise that most of us would like to avoid. However, the fact that they are unappealing does not imply that they are not healthy to some extent, with most of them having a sense that pushes us to a type of behavior that can be adaptive as long as they are not taken to the extreme.

That is why more than avoiding them, we should learn to manage them. In this article we will look at a series of guidelines that will allow us to understand how to manage negative emotions .

Emotions and their consideration

We understand emotion as a concrete and subjective affective state that is experienced during a relatively short period of time and that is characterized by generating some type of activation or determined way of functioning in our organism that in turn can serve to favor some type of behavior.

They allow us to give a certain value to the experience , whether it is internal or external, and they are born from the interior of people in an innate way. Its appearance in a concrete situation, however, is largely mediated by environmental influences and the subject’s previous experiences and learning.

Generally, we tend to divide emotions into positive and negative, depending on the type of activation generated in us and the association between that activation and the lived experience. Generally we consider positive those that generate some type of pleasure (joy, illusion or calm would be examples) while those that are annoying or painful are the negative ones (sadness, anger or despair).

Both types of emotions, as well as others considered neutral (e.g., surprise) actually have an adaptive function for the organism, since they lead us to tend to act in a certain way.

Guidelines on Managing Negative Emotions

This also includes refusals, even though we find them undesirable. For example, anger, anguish or rage pushes us to move against something that we consider unfair or that generates discomfort, and sadness makes us seek protection or reduce our level of activity in certain situations where an excess of action could be an energy waste).

This is relevant since very often we want to avoid at all costs living negative emotions, even though they are healthy to some degree and allow us to survive and cope with complicated situations. And as we mentioned in the introduction, rather than avoiding them we should learn to manage them correctly in such a way that we allow ourselves to feel them without them becoming dysfunctional.

This requires emotional intelligence , and this type of intelligence can in fact be trained. Below we offer a series of guidelines to learn how to manage negative emotions.

1. Do not block them

The first and one of the most important steps in learning how to manage negative emotions is simply not to avoid them. As a rule, we tend to try to reduce our suffering and simply ignore or cover it up. It is necessary to avoid avoidance and accept that we must face them .

2. Evaluate why they appear and what they want to tell you

As we have said, emotions are an adaptive thing that helps us to survive. It is necessary that besides allowing us to feel them, we listen to what they want to tell us, what they are informing us about.

While this point may seem very logical, the truth is that many people are not able to say why they feel the way they do. Why are we sad? Has something happened that makes us feel this way? We should do an exercise not only in perception but also in reasoning on an emotional level about these questions.

3. Uses meditation techniques

Closely linked to the previous point, a good way to get in touch with our emotions is the use of meditation. There are also techniques such as Mindfulnnes (which is also largely based on a certain type of meditation) that can be useful to us. Allowing our thoughts and emotions to pass through and observing them as a witness, without interfering with them , can help us to determine why they appear.

4. Express them

A common mistake in most societies, at least in the West, is that suffering and discomfort is often a taboo and hidden subject, something even shameful that we do not usually share with anyone or few people. Negative emotions, therefore, are often hidden and socially repressed, something that in the long run can generate a cumulative effect that will make us feel worse and worse and that what should be adaptive becomes harmful and even pathological.

Although it may not be a matter of constant demonstration either, it may be useful to share them with the surrounding environment or to express them in different ways, such as through art. It is a matter of making them flow and letting them appear and disappear in a normal and adaptive way.

5. Answer them

It is not only about knowing why they are there or just expressing them, but it also becomes fundamental to give an answer to the need they are expressing . That is, if we are anguished and need to calm down, we should look for a way out, or if we are sad, some place to feel protected. If we are nervous about the chaos in a situation we may be able to seek order, or if we regret having hurt someone we may be able to talk to that person and try to make amends.

6. Try not to let them dominate you

We have said that negative emotions are also adaptive, as long as they flow normally. But it is also possible that a particular emotion becomes a dominant element in our lives and that it becomes a central axis that alters all our behavior, being also somewhat resistant to change.

We must try to listen to our emotions, but learn to manage them in such a way that they are functional and allow us to achieve a good quality of life and a sense of well-being. Otherwise we could be manifesting some kind of unhealthy reaction or even a pathology such as depression. That is why understanding how to manage negative emotions is something of great importance in our daily lives.

7. Assesses situations that arouse similar feelings

Emotions often arise when experiencing a certain type of situation. If the emotions that arise are negative, such as anguish or fear, sometimes we may not know how to deal with them.

One way to reduce the intensity of these negative emotions can be to remember situations similar to the one that generates the emotion itself: it is a matter of remembering how we have faced it in the case of having been successful in resolving them, in such a way that they inspire us and provide guidelines applicable in the current situation. This will allow us to reduce the tension and discomfort.

This would, however, only be valid if we have successfully dealt with a similar situation: if we do not achieve a positive resolution, it can in no way lead to a higher level of discomfort.

8. The power of observation

So far we have talked about different aspects of working on oneself, but the truth is that we can also improve our way of managing negative emotions by observing and listening to others.

Observing how others express emotions and how they manage them can allow us not only to identify them in others but can also lead us to self-identify aspects such as physiological symptoms or ways of acting. The use of models that teach us how to face situations and emotions can also help us to a great extent.

9. Self-registration and/or journals

A typical technique for learning to manage negative emotions has a lot to do with the ability to organize and systematize information. Keeping a diary or some kind of self-recording can help us to observe which situations generate certain emotions in us , their intensity or even possible alternative interpretations to the interpretations made or possible responses to be made .