People often inflame their emotions by thinking about themselves negatively. For example, they might believe their feelings of sadness are an indication of weakness, or they might end up feeling guilty after an outburst of anger.
And sometimes, people intensify their emotions by thinking negatively about situations or other people. For example, an initial reaction of frustration may turn into rage if it is intensified by indignation, blame and resentment.
Try to recognise when your thought processes and mental reactions are generating further emotions. If you don’t compound your emotions with negative reactions, you will be in a much better position to resolve your initial emotions.
Resolving Common Emotions
Guilt and Shame
If you think you’ve done something wrong, something that does not concur with your ethics and the values you adhere to, then you will likely react with guilt and shame. This is normal, and these emotions are providing you with information. Guilt and shame can be very helpful in providing you with instructions for being a better person.
Via these emotions, you can learn the lessons from your actions. You can then affirm to yourself that you will take heed, and will do things differently in the future. Then you can forgive yourself, accept what happened, and the emotions of guilt and shame will naturally dissipate.
Sometimes a process of atonement can also help to resolve emotions of guilt or shame. For example, if you were unkind to someone in the past, you can resolve this by apologising and being kind to them. And if you are no longer in touch with the person you were unkind to, you can make up for it by being kind to other people. If you were unfair in business and cheated someone out of their money, you can apologise and pay them back. And if you are not in touch with this person, you can give a homeless person the money.
It definitely can be helpful to go through some process of redemption to forgive one’s self and move on. But you do have to accept the past and stop judging yourself. We do not need to punish ourselves through debilitating emotional cycles — we only need to recognise the messages in our emotions, take heed, make changes, and move on.
Anger and Frustration
Anger and frustration are usually linked to some form of loss or the possibility of loss. Look to identify the loss and see if you can accept what has happened, or might happen.
If you can’t accept the loss, then come up with a strategy to recover your loss or compensate for it. Try to channel frustration into being proactive. However, sometimes, you may have to humbly recognise that things are out of your control, and accept your loses. Injustices do happen, and often there is nothing we can do about it.
If you become angry at other people, it is usually best to walk away before any further confrontation occurs. Take some time alone and calm yourself.
Resentment and Bitterness
Resentment and bitterness are often formed due to blame. Blame locks you into a conflict with other people. But even if people have mistreated you or betrayed your trust — blaming them and holding resentment is futile, and will only bring you into further emotional reactions. You will feel much stronger when you let go of blame.
You avoid blame by taking responsibility for your life. Do what you can to move on. Neutralise any jealousy, bitterness or contempt you have about other people. Then take action to get what you genuinely want.
When it comes to the political system, remember this time-honoured piece of English wisdom:
“Don’t let the bastards grind you down!”
Sadness is typically linked to feelings of dissatisfaction, apathy and helplessness. Look to identify what you can accept or release from your life in order to move on.
Sometimes a positive ritual is beneficial to say goodbye to someone, or to mark the end of something in your life. You could write a letter saying goodbye and then bury the letter or watch it float away on a river. You could collect certain belongings you associate with what you want to let go of and give them away or burn them on a fire.
These kinds of positive rituals can be very helpful to symbolically demark changes you intend to make. Then, look for what you can focus on, change, and bring rejuvenation to in your life.
Grief and Sorrow
Grief is an emotion that occurs when a person gradually processes a situation that causes great sorrow.
There are circumstances in life, such as the death of a loved one, where emotions of sadness can develop into grief, and these emotions should not be fraught with attempts of suppression or with self-criticism. By making a conscious effort to accept your emotions, you can allow them to take a natural course. You can allow them to ebb and flow naturally and then dissipate.
If you feel overwhelmed by grief, it is best to manage it by dedicating a period of time each day to your sorrows. Thirty minutes or one hour is usually sufficient, and in this time, you think and emote about who or what you grieve for. It is a dedication — a positive ritual — and it will help you process the grief.
You will know when it is time to make the dedication less frequent.