There is power in acknowledging negative thoughts and emotions…
Have you ever had a hard time letting go of a habit, thought pattern, or destructive emotional spiral? I know I have. Here is the thing about our habits—especially when it comes to what we think, feel, or believe—they are really, really hard to break.
Even when they hurt us.
If you are like myself or any of the clients, students, or other wisdom practitioners I have worked with, releasing negative emotions and finding freedom from sticky thought patterns has been the work of a lifetime. It takes practice. But it’s the whole point of learning mindfulness in the first place: To let that shit go.
When you find yourself trapped in a negative emotion or a place of resistance, try the following practice, in part developed by David Hawkins, author of The Map of Consciousness Explained: A Proven Energy Scale to Actualize Your Ultimate Potential to learn how to allow your negative emotion to exist and then let it go.
1. STOP* whatever you are doing.
Everybody loves a good acronym. In this case, STOP means:
S: Stand up
T: Take a deep breath
O: Open your mind to another possibility
P: Pause before taking the next step
(*If this step looks familiar, we covered it last week!)
2. Notice and accept your feelings about the situation you are in.
Give a name to your feelings and accept that you are feeling them. Journaling can be a great space for notice, naming, and accepting. Or consider asking a close friend or family member if you can voice your experience to them—without projecting your feelings all over them—to help you start to accept your feelings. (Remember, what we resist persists; and if we name it, we can tame it!)
3. Set an intention to clear the negative emotion rather than feeding the emotion.
To get unstuck from your emotions, you must make a conscious choice to let them go. It is all too easy to feed a negative emotion—with persisting thoughts, amplified feelings, or destructive behaviors. Negative emotions are not going to clear all on their own: You must invite them to leave and then make decisions that will release them.
4. Close your eyes and go within yourself, acknowledging the negative feelings as they arise.
In other words, once you have set the intention to clear yourself of negativity, you’re going to have to let that negativity flow through you and out of you. Allow your feelings to make the journey, invite them to be present with you and move through you, without reacting to them or analyzing them. Treat your feelings with the same loving-kindness and compassion that you would like to receive from them. Soften into your struggle—for now, let it be.
5. Give yourself permission to let all feelings arise without suppressing, repressing, expressing, or escaping them.
You can literally say to your anger, your fear, your pain, or your suffering: “You belong.” You might even consider personifying your feeling: What is the character of your anger? What does fear look like? Who is pain? Sit down and talk to them. Ask yourself: What if I sat with this for just one minute? Can I sit with this for two minutes? Can I invite my feelings to gather around a big dinner table and just be with them?
6. Shift your attention to something healthy that brings you happiness and joy.
This is called “the pivot”. (And yes, it is just as fancy and graceful as it sounds.) If you’re working through this nine-step process, by now you’ve changed your physical posture, gotten quiet, welcomed an understanding of how you feel, and asked yourself: Can I sit with this discomfort and understand where it comes from and what it’s trying to tell me? Now ask yourself: What is WORKING in my life? (Believe it or not, there are things in your life that are working.) Start to turn your attention away from your pain.
7. As waves of feeling continue to cross your mind and flow through your body, verbally give them permission to leave.
As the negative emotions start to leave you experience, replace them with the feelings about what is working in your life, what brings you joy, where you find beauty. Treat the retreating feeling with loving-kindness and compassion but maintain the clarity that the feeling has done its job and it’s time for it to leave.
8. No matter how long negative feelings take to leave your consciousness, acknowledge and accept them as part of your humanness.
The broad, wild spectrum of emotions is part of the human experience. It is normal and natural for negative thoughts to arise throughout the course of your day and your life. Regard yourself with compassion, even as you catch yourself overthinking or reengaging with the negative spiral. This work takes practice, and it ebbs and flows! Self-criticism not only fails to serve you, but it also holds you to a standard that is impossible to achieve. Be gentle with yourself and embrace your humanness.
9. As your feelings leave, remind yourself that you want to let them go because you desire higher feelings like peace, harmony, or love to enter your experience.
Regard your pain or struggle as a pathway that is leading you toward love. (If you need a refresher of how the Emotional Guidance Scale works, we’ve already covered it on the blog!)
No matter what, remember that whatever you are experiencing in any given moment is just the next hurdle you must jump to get to a higher state of being where you can bring your most authentic, joyous, soulful self forward, into the world. The world is ready for you.
Want to learn more? There’s a book for that! Click here to take the first step towards greater awakening, awareness, self-love and personal transformation.
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