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“Negative” Emotions

I don’t like dividing emotions into the categories of “positive” and “negative.” When we call emotions “negative” we are diminishing their value and purpose. Are emotions sometimes unpleasant? You bet! They may be reflecting the situation and providing you information about a situation that endangers you. That doesn’t make the emotions or the information they convey bad or negative. Imagine saying that skin was “negative” because a mosquito bite itched ferociously or poison ivy caused you to break out in a terrible rash. Skin is performing an important job of protecting our bodies from outside dangers. Emotions are providing us with needed information and enriching our lives and experiences. And in many cases, “negative” is relative. Have you ever gone to a haunted house or a frightening Halloween movie on purpose? Most people would say fear is a negative emotion, but in these cases, people are seeking out fear intentionally, for fun! It hardly seems fair to categorize fear as a negative emotion, then. And what about sadness? Most people don’t like being sad and work to avoid feeling sad. It’s another one of those so-called “negative” emotions. And yet, have you ever watched a movie or read a book that was a known “tear jerker”? Sometimes we seek out sad topics as a form of recreation or we are willing to experience sadness in the service of some other goal such as learning or honoring people or events. Overall, I believe it makes more sense to think of emotions in terms of pleasant and unpleasant rather than positive and negative. Emotions are an important way we take in information and make sense of our environment and situations. Emotions enrich our lives. If you have ever suffered a depressive episode, you may understand what I’m referring to here. In a depressive episode, emotions are very muted and people often feel numb. Without emotions, we could look at the beautiful sunrise or our babies smiles and remain untouched. Without emotions, we could see the horrors of war or abuse and remain unmoved to demand peace or safety. And perhaps learning to think of the experience of emotions and unpleasant or pleasant rather than emotions themselves as being one or the other can help us to tolerate them better when are not enjoying them.

I currently have an opening at a reduced rate for someone who has PTSD and would like to receive Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Call or text for more information: 816-226-4678.

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