The Zen of Negative Emotions: Why Letting Ourselves Feel Bad Is the Key to Feeling Better

We all can agree that negative emotions can be tough to deal with. Sometimes it can be much easier to avoid them and keep them bottled up inside.

Yet, according to research, one of the main causes of many psychological problems is the habit of emotional avoidance. It appears that avoiding negative emotions buys you a short-term gain at the price of long-term pain.

According to spiritual guru Osho, it’s crucial to experience all emotions if we want to be truly happy:

“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”

The question is:

How do we learn to embrace our emotions?

Osho believes that’s all about listening to your being and becoming mature:

“Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that’s what maturity is all about.”

One strategy to learn to embrace your emotions

Osho also offers a brilliant strategy to embrace difficult emotions like sadness, anxiety and depression:

“Sadness is silent, it is yours. It is coming because you are alone. It is giving you a chance to go deeper into your aloneness. Rather than jumping from one shallow happiness to another shallow happiness and wasting your life, it is better to use sadness as a means for meditation. Witness it. It is a friend! It opens the door of your eternal aloneness.”

Master Buddhust Pema Chödrön also echoes these feelings:

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

By viewing these emotions as friends, you will gradually rewire your brain to accept them and work with them, rather than fighting against them.

For example, when you experience anxiety, you can see it as an overprotective friend that is just looking out for you. You can simply say, “Thanks for looking out for me, even if you’re being a bit silly.”

Originally published on Hack Spirit.

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