How to deal with negative emotions

If we need to build up our confidence, it is because negative emotions such as fear, anger, shame, guilt, etc....get in the way.

We would prefer to experience joy, enthusiasm, trust, confidence...all the time, wouldn’t we?

The first thing to do when we are confronted with negative emotions is to observe them or to feel them without trying to do anything about it. If mustering courage and forcing ourselves to move forward has not worked in the past, it’s not because we are not good enough. Sometimes negativity feeds from the efforts we do to fight it. We become similar to a dog with a choke collar – the more we fight it, the more we end up overwhelmed and powerless.

The first thing to do is to stop trying to suppress these feelings.

Of course, if we have not tried at all, maybe we should force ourselves a little bit.

In this post, I am writing for those who tried, but found that fear, shyness, self-consciousness, nervousness and other negative feelings continued to hinder them.

Rick Hanson, in his insightful book “Buddha Brain” talks about how neuroscience often validates Buddhist knowledge of the human mind. He says that when we simply pay attention to what’s going on within us, in our case our negativity, we activate the same neural circuits as those that are activated within a child’s brain when shown empathy by his/her mother. What does a good mother do when her child needs her? She offers attention, empathy, and understanding. She lets the child recover from the overwhelming emotions, without pushing or pulling. This is also the first thing we should do for ourselves.

Exhortations to face challenge, to pull ourselves together, be tough and so on, should come only second...and they might not even be needed! 

 I think our minds are already so soaked up with those kinds of exhortations that what we actually need is fewer of them, not more.

 We need to offer ourselves more kindness, patience, and tolerance, without thinking that we are selfish for doing so.


Another tip I would like to offer you: We often hear that affirmations are powerful. For instance, you may have tried to repeat and repeat, “I can do it!” Maybe it helped a bit, but the results were not as impressive as described in self-help books.

There is a much more powerful affirmation than “I can do it!” which is: “I did it!”

It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. The trick is to take up very small challenges. If talking to people is the issue, start with a small challenge. For example, try asking a stranger for directions. If this seems too easy, try something a bit more challenging: Ask a group of strangers for directions! Or maybe strike up a conversation with a stranger for no reason (smile, make eye contact, make a simple statement). If public speaking is the issue, simply come along to a Speed Public Speaking Session. It is a non violent training.

Once you’ve done it, don’t forget to conclude with the powerful affirmation: “I did it!” Say it out loud, for yourself, and you will know it is true. It is a great way to build up confidence. I like to think that it is a gentle way to push ourselves.

I did it, and I will continue to do it!

So let's remember: the first step is acknowledging our negative emotions, knowing that the way to mitigate them is to recognize them and be empathetic to ourselves.

The second step is to set up small challenges for ourselves, so that we can say more and more often: "I did it!"

I hope it helps!