Awesome Michelle asks: “Can you clarify the difference between feeling sad emotions and creating them? For example, if I was going through a breakup and was feeling sad about it a few times a week, should I let myself feel sad all those times, or at that point, am I just creating those bad emotions?”
Dear Awesome Michelle,
Thank you for this most excellent of questions! It’s one that I answer A LOT, so I’m thrilled to get a chance to write up a response.
Why you have negative emotions
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The whole reason you have any kind of emotion, negative or positive, is to let you know where you are focusing. You see, you have no idea where your focus is pointing (watch out where you aim that thing!) unless you get some feedback, just like you don’t know precisely what you’re directing one of those laser pointers at until you see that little red dot on the wall. You need some kind of indicator to let you know what you’re focusing on, and your emotions do just that. When you feel positive emotion, you’re focusing on something you want, something that matches Who You Really Are. When you feel negative emotion, you’re focusing on something you don’t want. It doesn’t matter if you are consciously aware of what you’re focusing on; in fact, you generally aren’t. Your emotions, however, will never lie.
There are many ways in which we can use our emotional feedback to help us fine tune our vibration and shape our reality. The process that I advise goes like this:
- Become aware of the negative emotion and own it, meaningthat you admit to yourself how you really feel, even if you don’t want to feel that way.
- Figure out how you WANT to feel instead and do your best to reach for that emotion to the best of your ability. You probably will not, at this point, be able to make it all the way, but you will be able to activate the frequency of what you want to some degree.
- Notice the obstacles that now pop up – the “Yeah, but’s…”, and spend some time contradicting each one until you clear the resistance.
- If that doesn’t work, you haven’t actually figured out how you really feel. Sit with the negative emotion some more until you manifest more evidence of that frequency (thoughts, memories and ideas), which will give you more information about what’s truly going on. In other words, go back to the beginning of the process and start over. Only this time, don’t gloss over the first step. It’s the most important.
Think of your emotions as messengers, there to let you know that you’re holding on to something that isn’t serving you. Your negative manifestations, by the way, are just larger delivery vehicles for the emotional messengers. When the message is delivered (when you allow yourself to receive it), the messenger will go away.
Aren’t bad feeling thoughts, um, bad, though?
It’s at this point that a lot of people get confused. They understand that negative emotions are there to tell us something, but when I advise them to step into the emotion and really allow themselves to feel it, they freak out a bit. Aren’t they creating more negativity? Doesn’t focusing on what feels bad just make things worse? Doesn’t even Abraham (who I recommend highly) say to stay away from the bad feeling thoughts?
Here’s the thing: I’m not advising you to purposely seek out bad feeling stuff and wallow in it. You’re not creating negative emotion, you’re simply acknowledging the negative emotion that’s already there, and has been for a long time. You’re finally listening to the message.
Of course, if you can simply distract yourself and not think about that subject at all anymore, if you can truly feel better and ignore that topic altogether, do that. It’s the easiest way to raise your vibration. If the issue that’s bugging you won’t go away, however, if it keeps cropping up and slapping you in the face, you need a different tactic.
Let’s take the example of the breakup. So, your significant other dumped you, and now you’re feeling sad. You could try to just be happy no matter what, but chances are, you’d much rather cry into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Fair enough. In this case, simply distracting yourself won’t work. This doesn’t mean that nothing will.
Here’s my advice:
Feel sad. But do it constructively
Allow yourself to feel sad; in fact, freaking wallow in it. Give your despair full and free reign. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Won’t I be perpetuating the energy of the sadness, therefore creating more of it?” Nope. Notice that I did not say that you should find all the sad stuff in the world and focus on it. That would be stupid and yes, that would make you a match to MORE sadness. What I am advising is that you allow the sadness that is already there, as a result of how you are inadvertently and unknowingly focusing upon yourself, to flow so that it can leave you.
This is not NEW sadness, this is OLD sadness. You’re already focusing on something that doesn’t serve you. All you’re doing now is becoming aware of what you’re focusing and why, so you can STOP DOING THAT.
This is not an intellectual exercise; it’s an emotional one. Don’t try to figure it out at this point, don’t dig into your psyche and try to analyze why you are feeling the way you are. Just feel it. Just allow yourself to be sad. Certainly, don’t perpetuate the sadness by adding to it. Don’t tell sad stories, or ask others to validate your sadness (they can validate your right to be sad, though), or to commiserate with you. Don’t seek out others who are sad. Just sit with your sadness and feel it.
Now, the first thing that will happen is that you’ll already feel a bit of relief. This messenger is trying to get your attention, and when you allow the emotion to flow freely, it’s like you’re finally opening the door to receive the message. You feel relief when you stop pushing against that flow.
The message will be contained in the emotion. In order to unlock it, you have to feel it. When you do, you will begin to understand the emotion more and more. Keep in mind that you’ll have to feel the emotion for more than 20 seconds (which is when most people want to quit). Spend a few minutes doing this exercise. If your personal development takes less time than a microwave burrito, you might be cutting it a little short…
If the sadness has been suppressed for a long time, you may need to spend several days or even weeks giving it free reign (this longer time period will apply to people who are severely depressed or going through a grieving process). As long as the wallowing actually feels like relief, you’re on the right track. In the example of the breakup, you’d probably be more likely to be intermittently sad. In other words, the sadness would not be constant, but would come up throughout the day or week.
The more you allow yourself to TRULY feel this sadness, giving yourself full permission to feel it, the faster it will leave you. Keep in mind that you cannot wallow in your negative emotion and beat up on yourself for having that negative emotion at the same time. This will keep you stuck. If you’re going to wallow, wallow fully. Really get into it. Surrender to it. Feel it with gusto. Acknowledge how you’re feeling (“I’m so freaking sad!”) and give yourself full permission to feel that way (“…and that’s totally ok!”). As you do, you’ll get more information.
Get a clue
Now, there will be times when simply allowing the emotion to flow will be enough to release it, and you won’t have to do anything else. You’ll just feel well and truly better. If this happens, congratulations.
If, however, your mind has a tendency to get in the way and halt the process (“I will not let myself progress until I understand what’s going on!”), you’ll have to guide the process along a little. You can do this by paying attention to the messages contained in your emotions. These messages will generally come in the form of memories. As you feel sad, for example, you’ll begin to remember other times from your life when you felt exactly the same way. Notice that these are not examples of when you felt sort of like you do now. The frequency of these memories will be an exact match to what you are experiencing now. These memories will provide you with more data – a clearer view of how you’re really feeling and what this is truly about.
Let’s say that in this case, as you feel the sadness of the breakup, you first remember another breakup from when you were 16. In that memory, the boy you were dating not only broke up with you, but he ended up immediately dating your best friend. You realize that not only do you feel sad, but you feel betrayed. And even though there was no best friend involved this time, the emotions are the same. You also realize that there is a strong undercurrent of “I’m not good enough”. What was so great about your BFF that your boyfriend preferred her over you? Or, even more accurately, what was wrong with you? What IS wrong with you? You feel self-pity and not a small amount of resentment, waffling between “If I were better somehow, I would’ve been able to make it work” and “Screw him and the horse he rode in on! I don’t need him or that stupid ho from when I was 16!”
Do you see that this is about much more than just a bit of sadness? But you can’t figure that out unless you’re willing to feel it. Of course, as you feel the emotion, as it flows, it will begin to morph. It will naturally guide you to better feeling emotions. This is why your sadness will turn into anger.
Follow the emotional trail
When that happens, keep on giving your emotions free reign. Notice that feeling emotion and expressing it in destructive ways are not even close to the same thing. Be angry if that’s how you feel. But maybe refrain from punching people in the face. So, if you are being pulled into anger, be angry. Let the emotions take you where you need to go.
Of course, for most readers of this blog, that won’t be so easy. Your mind will get in the way and insist on being a part of the process. No worries. Keep identifying and acknowledging how you feel. When you get to the root of it, how you truly feel, you’ll get this large sense of relief again (due to no longer denying that feeling or suppressing it). You’ll know that you’ve got it. If you find yourself getting frustrated because you can’t NAME the feeling, back off and remind yourself that this is an emotional exercise. Your mind can be involved if it insists, but it’s not really needed here.
So, you’ve now had the memory of your breakup when you were 16. You continue to sit with the emotions and give them free reign when another memory comes in. This one is from when you were 8. Your older siblings went off to play without you, leaving you on your own and feeling utterly rejected. And suddenly this thought comes into your mind “No one wants to play with me”, and it hits you like a ton of bricks. You’ve given voice to what’s really bothering you. You feel rejected and unaccepted, alone, abandoned and like you’re not good enough. The sentence “No one wants to play with me” perfectly represents – to you – exactly how you feel.
NOW focus on what you want
Once you’ve allowed your pain to purge from your system, it’ll be much easier to reach for how you actually want to feel. In this case, you might start with “Some people DO want to play with me”, and then go up the vibrational ladder from there (the Vibrational ladder is a system of choosing ever more positive perspectives, incrementally working your way up to where you ultimately want to be. You can read a full explanation here.)
Keep in mind that limiting beliefs are always absolute or black and white. “This is how it ALWAYS is.” “NO ONE does that.” “I NEVER get what I want.” So, a great way to immediately shift some energy is to interject a softer word such as SOMETIMES. You’ll want to begin to look for evidence of the gray areas. It’s not that NO ONE wants to play with you. Those kids didn’t when you were 8. But what about all those times when people have wanted to play with you? What about all those other kids, all those other dates, the friends you’re meeting for a drink this Friday? Remember them?
Your mind won’t want to, but this is where you have to be just a little bit stubborn. Validate this evidence – choose to see it as pertinent to this situation. Don’t dismiss it. When you no longer allow a belief to be absolute, it will fall apart. Limiting beliefs cannot exist in the grey area. You’ll be able to reach for even better feeling statements, such as, “A lot of people actually like playing with me”, or “I get to play anytime I want.” And now you’re flying!
Feeling negative emotion is not the same as generating it. If you’re watching the news and you see something that makes you feel bad, and you continue watching it, bitching about it and focusing on it, even though you know it’s making you feel bad, you are generating negative emotion. Don’t do that.
If you’re watching the news and you see something that feels bad, and you stop watching, allowing you to feel instantly better, Bravo! If you’ve stopped watching but still feel bad, allow yourself to feel the emotions. You are no longer activating the feeling – you’ve turned the TV off, but obviously something else is actually causing the negative emotion. You are giving the messenger a chance to deliver the message it so clearly wants to bring you. You are not perpetuating the situation, you’re giving yourself a chance to figure out what the real situation is. The TV program was just a trigger for something that’s been wanting to come out for a long time.
Another way to state this is: don’t go looking for negative emotion, but when it pops up, let it.
I hope that I’ve been able to clarify this issue once and for all. It’s something that so many people struggle with and something that trips up even the most dedicated students. Speaking of which, those of you who follow Abraham may still be wondering why I’d seemingly contradict them. I don’t, actually. We’re simply teaching in different ranges of the spectrum. Abraham advises us to just reach for the better feeling emotion and be super stubborn about it. If the mind jumps in and tries to bring up objections, ignore it and keep on focusing. This does work, unless your mind is still running the show. I tend to work with people who aren’t quite ready to just “let it go”, and need some assistance putting the mind in its proper place. Once you’ve done that, focusing on what you want is all you’ll ever need to do.