Negative Emotions Can Be Positive | Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our therapists and counselors specialize in CBT and we understand that people are going to have negative emotions when they are faced with negative events in life. However, negative emotions have a bad rap. In general, we are told to think “positively”, which is said to give us greater happiness and contentment in our lives. And when something bad happens, we are often told, “every cloud has a silver lining”, but when bad things happen, that silver lining isn’t always so easy to find. For instance, if a loved one has died tragically, unexpectedly or at an early age, that silver lining is pretty impossible to find and “thinking positive” about the death is unfeasible. Therefore, in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), we make a distinction between unhealthy negative emotions and healthy negative emotions.
In the example above, the negative emotional response is easily understood. After all, who could feel good or positive about the tragic death of a loved one? Yet this approach also holds true for other adverse situations in life. When something bad or unpleasant happens in your life, it is actually not appropriate for you to feel positive or good about them. It is healthy to experience negative emotions, as long as they are healthily negative. Healthy negative emotions are a natural, realistic response to life’s difficulties and trying to “think positive” during these times can be viewed as a type of distraction that keeps us from recognizing our difficulties. Accepting and acknowledging our challenges, experiencing some suffering and pain is a very necessary step toward healing.
CBT helps us to accept that life can be messy, challenging and sometimes difficult and although we are going to feel negative emotions during times of adversity, we can also have control over the way we feel by thinking in a healthy, accepting manner.
Let me explain:
Unhealthy Thinking and Feeling.
- My co-worker doesn’t like me.
- My co-worker must not think badly of me, it’s awful and I can’t stand it that he doesn’t like me. As a matter of fact, I want everyone to like me and if they don’t, then there’s something wrong with me. I’m a real looser.
- Resulting emotion: anxiety.
Healthy Thinking and Feeling.
- My co-worker doesn’t like me (the situation remains the same).
- I’d like my co-worker to think well of me and like me, but it’s not an absolute necessity that he does. I can stand it, although I don’t really like it too much. But just because he doesn’t like me, that doesn’t make me an unlikable person or a looser. I am an imperfect human being, but I am worthwhile, even if he doesn’t like me and I will make an effort to cultivate other relationships.
- Resulting emotion: appropriate concern
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our therapists and counselors believe that emotions that are expressed healthily allow us to think realistically and constructively and help us to avoid destructive behaviors or inaction. Thought suppression or thinking positively can backfire. We can help you to understand that while it is impossible to avoid negative emotions entirely, we can teach you how to express them more healthily as you face life’s adversities.
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