“Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” — Jean Kerr
You can free yourself from negative emotions. Or, you can at least reduce getting stuck and wallowing in negative emotions.
But you need to know how.
In the book, Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want — Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible, Brian Tracy teaches us how to get rid of negative emotions holding us back.
Negative Emotions are Your Worst Enemies
Negative emotions can be our ultimate downfall.
“The greatest enemies of success and happiness are negative emotions of all kinds. Negative emotions hold you down, tire you out, and take away all your joy in life. Negative emotions from the beginning of time, have done more harm to individuals and societies than all the plagues of history.”
The 4 Factors of Negative Emotions
You can free yourself negative emotions once you identify and remove the four factors of negative emotions.
“The negative emotions of fear, self-pity, envy, jealousy, feelings of inferiority and ultimately anger are mostly caused by four factors. Once you identify and remove these factors from your thinking, your negative emotions stop automatically. When your negative emotions stop, the positive emotions of love, peace, joy, and enthusiasm flow in to replace them and your whole life changes for the better, sometimes in a matter of minutes or even seconds.”
1. Stop Justifying
If you want to free yourself from negative emotions, then stop justifying them. Or, as Mom would say, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”
“The first of the four root causes of negative emotions is justification. You can be negative only as long as you can justify to yourself and others that you are entitled to be angry or upset for some reason. This is why angry people are continually explaining and elaborating on the reasons for their negative feelings. However, if you cannot justify your negativity, you cannot be angry.”
Brian Tracy shares an example of two very different ways we can respond if we lose our jobs. One way is to get angry, make it personal, and justify your negative feelings.
“For example, a person is laid off from a job due to a change in the economy and declining sales in the company. This happens all the time and to almost everyone, sooner or later. However, the individual becomes angry with his boss for this decision and justifies his anger by describing all the reasons why his being laid off is unfair. He can even get himself so incensed that he decides to sue or get even in some way. As long as he continues to justify his negative feelings toward his boss and the company, his negative emotions control him and occupy much of his life and thinking.”
A very different way to respond would be to focus on getting your next job.
“However, as soon as he says, ‘Well, I’ve been laid off. These things happen. It’s not personal. People get laid off all the time. I guess I’d better get busy finding a new job,’ his negative emotions vanish. He becomes calm, clear, and focused on the goal and on the steps he can take to get back into the workforce. As soon as he stops justifying, he becomes a more positive and effective person.”
2. Refuse to Rationalize and Make Excuses
Don’t make excuses. If you want to free yourself from negative emotions, then stop rationalizing how someone or something else is the source of your problems.
“The second cause of negative emotions is rationalization. When you rationalize, you attempt to give a ‘socially acceptable explanation for an otherwise socially unacceptable act.’
You rationalize to explain away or put a favorable light on something that you have done that you feel bad or unhappy about. You excuse your actions by creating an explanation that sounds good, even though you know that you were probably an active agent in whatever occurred. You often create complex ways of putting yourself in the right by explaining that your behavior was really quite acceptable, all things considered. This rationalization keeps your negative emotions alive.
Rationalization and justification always require that you make someone or something else the source or cause of your problem. You cast yourself in the role of the victim, and you make the other person or organization into the oppressor or the ‘bad guy.’”
3. Rise Above the Opinions of Others
Don’t let other people define your self-image. My Mom taught it to me like this, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”, and, “Don’t let other people push your buttons.”
“The third cause of negative emotions is an over concern or a hypersensitivity about the way other people treat you. For some people, their entire self-image is determined by the way other people speak to them, talked to them or about them, or even look at them. They have little sense of personal value or even self-worth apart from the opinions of others, and if those opinions are negative for any reason, real or imagined, the ‘victim’ immediately experiences anger, embarrassment, shames, feelings of inferiority, and even depression, self-pity, and despair. This explains why psychologists say that almost everything we do is to earn the respect of others or at least to avoid losing their respect. The key to dealing with this concern about what other people are thinking is to realize that no one is really thinking about you at all. Most people are so preoccupied with themselves and the details of their own lives that they have little or not time to think very much about others. It has been said, ‘If you really knew how little others think about you, you would be insulted.’”
What separates the people that have a strong sense of love and belonging from those that don’t? According to Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability, they believe they’re worthy.
4. Realize that No One Else is Responsible
As soon as you take responsibility, you stop giving your power away. Even better, you stop giving power to your negative emotions.
“The fourth cause of negative emotions, and the worst of all, is blaming. When I draw the ‘Negative Emotions Tree’ in my seminars, I illustrate the trunk of the tree as the propensity to blame other people for our problems. Once you cut down the trunk of the tree, all the fruits of the tree — all the other negative emotions — die immediately, just as all the lights go out on a Christmas tree when you jerk the plug out of the socket.”
Responsibility is the Antidote
Own it. This was Brian Tracy’s turning point in his life, when he took responsibility for his situation.
“The antidote for negative emotions of all kinds is for you to accept complete responsibility for your situation. You cannot say the words ‘I am responsible’ and still feel angry. The very act of accepting responsibility short-circuits and cancels out any negative emotions you may be experiencing.
The discovery of this simple but powerful affirmation, ‘I am responsible,’ and its ability to instantly eliminate negative emotions was a turning point in my life, as it has been for many hundreds of thousands of my students.
Just imagine! You can free yourself from negative emotions and begin taking control of your life by simply saying, ‘I am responsible!’ whenever you start to feel angry or upset for any reason.”
As a bonus, if you’ve never seen Bob Newhart’s skit about how to stop negative emotions, it’s a classic:
As funny as the skit is, you’ll actually see some of Brainy Tracy’s advice in action.
Mastering your emotions is a journey, but every day is a chance to practice.
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Image by DoDo DoDo.