Negative emotions often leave clues
When you face difficult times, know that challenges are not sent to destroy you. They’re sent to promote, increase and strengthen you. ~ Anonymous
I want you to close your eyes and think of a difficult experience affecting you right now. Before you read any further, do this simple step to get a sense of how the problem is upsetting you. You may experience a range of emotions and I invite you to welcome them. Don’t push them away because they are uncomfortable. Allow them to be present since unpleasant emotions can teach us something valuable if we are present to them. Good, now open your eyes and let’s talk more about your problems. Thankfully, you are one of billions of people on this earth lucky enough to experience challenges. Lucky you say? Are you insane Tony? How am I lucky to have problems? You are lucky because your challenges contain the seeds of opportunities you have yet to discover.
Challenges contain enormous growth and when we overcome them, we can never go back to our old way of life. They help us recognise the endless possibilities and expand our consciousness. When I asked you to contemplate a current problem earlier, you no doubt experienced the negative emotions associated with it? And you would be right to feel this way because from where you stand the problem seems insurmountable. However, when you bridge the gap, it is diminished and you are able to see your challenges from a new perspective. You’re unable to perceive your problem with that mindset now because you haven’t gained the necessary growth.
It’s easy to see how our challenges expose our weaknesses, but we ought to think of it differently: they also reveal our strengths. If we accept the emotions that arise, we can work through our challenges more effectively. For example, I remember working with a young woman named Jennifer within a coaching capacity. Each time she experienced difficulties in her life, she would call me in a frenzy and explain how the situation was consuming her. One day during a coaching session, I invited her to tackle her challenges without allowing her anxiety, fear and frustration to get the better of her. I asked her to welcome these feelings since they were trying to teach her something valuable. Previously, she wanted to get rid of them because they didn’t feel good. I understand she would feel that way, however negative emotions can show us where we need to direct our attention.
The distance between the problem and the solution
When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change. ~ Paulo Coelho
Does this make sense? Are you comfortable with the idea that negative emotions serve a purpose and we needn’t feel helpless because of them? I counselled Jennifer to be aware of her response and not push the emotions away, since they were trying to teach her something important. Given she felt anxious and irritated each time, meant the problem was important to her. It requires changing our response so we remain calm instead of reacting to what is taking place. We ought to interact with our core emotions and work through the issues instead of responding negatively. For example, if you asked someone close to you whether the situation you’re experiencing is a major problem, they might think otherwise. The reason you react to it is that you are heavily invested in the outcome. I’m not suggesting this is detrimental, I am implying you accept your feelings by changing your response to what it means.
People believe problems expose their weaknesses because of the negative emotions that accompany it. If we experience fear, frustration and anger we might believe we are incapable of overcoming the experience because of the negativity involved. But they are signposts informing us the problem is important to us, otherwise, we wouldn’t be experiencing them. So, welcome the negative emotions and process them as best you can and then deal with the problem before you. Can you do this? Can you give yourself the gift of looking at your problems from a new perspective instead of staying mired in negativity? I assure you, you can overcome any obstacle life throws at you. It’s a matter of biting through it one piece at a time, chewing it thoroughly and digesting what you need to.
You are not meant to bridge the gap from problem to solution in one go, otherwise, you would be a genius. Problems and challenges arise because of the lessons and growth required for our life’s journey. They occur because the distance between the problem and the solution is where progress takes place. We can’t rush the growth any more than wishing a rose would grow quicker when planting the seed. We must nurture it daily with: water, proper soil and sunlight. And so it is with our challenges. Knowing this, I’d like you to return to your earlier problem. Write all the emotions you are experiencing on the left-hand side of a piece of paper or journal. Next to each emotion, write what you consider is the opposite of that emotion. For example, if you feel fear, what is the opposite of fear for you? Is it: courage, faith, hope or patience? Once you’ve gone through the list, reflect on what these negative states are inviting you to know. Contemplate them first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Trust that your current situation is calling you to overcome your weaknesses to reveal your true strength of character.