Gruber’s research on positive psychology found that attempting to suppress negative emotions, rather than accepting and appreciating them, paradoxically can backfire and increase feelings of distress.
She writes that one idea which is overdue for retirement is that sadness is bad and happiness is good. Because negative emotions can be a beautiful thing. They aid our survival with cues about threats. They help us focus and persist in times of adversity.
I’m reminded of a interview I heard with a famous comic book artist, who talked about how creativity helped him heal the trauma he experienced as an abandoned child. Dean put it eloquently: I was in the darkness, but then I realized I could wrap it around myself and use it as my cape. Hence, his successful career in writing stories about superheroes.
It’s a somber reminder that each of us must acknowledge that the shadow self does exist, and that we ought to ask ourselves, how can we keep from feeding it to where it becomes out of control?
Simple. Instead of feeding it, feed on it. Make it part of your diet. Treat the shadow self as an energy source. Channel it into creating inspiring art or fostering social change or running charity triathlons. That’s the encouraging part about negative emotion. It doesn’t care what you do with it.
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How mindfully do you ride the ebbs and tides of your rich emotional life?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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