Sitting in the car cursing to myself and being generally irritable, yes my Sherlock Holmes instincts told me I was in a bad mood. So what did I do? I gave out to myself for not being able to turn my mood around and think positive! Well that’s what we’re told we should be doing, isn’t it? The power of positive thinking is what we keep hearing these days. So now I was in a bad mood and being hard on myself for being in a bad mood. I couldn’t win.
So I reminded myself to practice what I preach. I consistently ask counselling and coaching clients if it helps when they’re being hard on themselves when they are feeling low and the resounding answer is no! So then I ask what would it be like to speak to yourself in those times like you would to a child, your inner child. Usually it’s a much kinder, gently, supportive approach that reminds people that they are being supported by themselves when they need themselves the most, through tough times.
So how am I linking this to the power of negative feeling? Well how can you expect yourself to think positive if you are ignoring negative feelings?
My personal view is that life is balanced in every way. When something good happens to you there is a negative consequence to that same event that is probably not obvious. Likewise, when something negative happens to you there is a positive consequence that is probably not obvious also. So expecting yourself to be positive all the time is unnatural and can cause an imbalance in your life.
What has always worked for me personally and professionally in counselling and coaching is that I encouraged expression of the negative feeling so that you can move forward to the positive thinking place. Consistently bottling or not allowing the expression of our natural negative feelings can lead to depression. I always use the metaphor of a steam kettle, if you let out the steam consistently and in manageable pieces then it doesn’t have to get to boiling over point. The deep dark numbness of depression is our emotional way of dealing with that boiling over point.
So what did I do? I allowed myself time to curse, rant and explore my bad mood. When I did give myself permission to feel negatively I realised I was annoyed at how I had been treated earlier that day. Also I was annoyed at my lack of communication to that person about how I felt they were treating me.
Don’t get me wrong sometimes a bad mood is just a bad mood and there isn’t always an obvious reason behind it. But if it’s just tiredness etc. then even acknowledging that can help, mixed with some TLC. But had I not given myself the time to listen to my feelings I wouldn’t have figured out how to help myself move past them.
I had figured out that there was something wrong that I could do something about. This is not always the case, sometimes a bad mood can be caused by something that you have no control over. In this instance it’s good just to let your negative feelings to be acknowledged, expressed and accepted by you. This expression and support of yourself can be enough to move you to a positive place.
So before my car journey was over I had resolved in my own head that I would explain to that person how I felt when I saw them next, so we could resolve it together. So the power of negative feeling is that if you do not allow yourself feel those negative feelings then they become much more powerful in their suppression. Once I had decided on a plan of action all of a sudden I was thinking a whole lot more positively!