“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
According to Tony Robbins, your negative emotions have empowering messages for you.
Negative emotions are a call to action and they can help protect you.
Tony Robbins reframes negative emotions as Action Signals.
You can use how you feel to make your life better by learning from the positive messages from your negative messages.
While negative emotions may be painful, they may also be your best friend.
You can use negative emotions to change the quality of your life immediately.
Negative Emotions are a Call to Action
I was listening to Tony Robbins talk about how we could master our emotions.
He said that the key to mastering emotions is to use them as a call to action.
Every emotion has a message for you.
Appreciate the message.
Negative emotions are a signal that change is needed.
You can either change your perception or change your approach.
Change Your Perception or Change Your Procedure
What if you knew that no matter what negative emotion you felt, in a moment or two you could get out of that feeling?
According to Tony, you can.
At any moment when you feel any negative emotion, the first step is to identify the Action Signal.
The Action Signal is the message that the particular negative emotion means. The next step, after you clarified the Action Signal, is to take action by either changing your perception or changing your procedure.
You change your perception by changing how you look at it or what you focus on.
You change your procedure by changing your approach or how you are responding in the situation.
10 Types of Negative Emotions
According to Tony, here are the 10 broad categories of emotions to use for this exercise:
This is the set of negative emotions that we’ll turn into Action Signals.
Instead of getting controlled by these emotions, we’ll use them as signals to take action.
That action is to either change your perception or change your behavior.
10 Types of Negative Emotions and Their “Action Signals”
These are the positive messages or empowering messages or Action Signals from the 10 broad categories of negative emotions:
- Uncomfortable – Impatient, uneasy, distressed, mildly embarrassed. When you feel uncomfortable, this is a signal to change your state. Clarify what you want, then take action in that direction.
- Fear – Concern, apprehension, scared, terrified. Fear is a signal to prepare ourselves or get prepared. Get yourself prepared to deal with something that’s about to come. If it’s beyond your control, then change your perception and let it go.
- Hurt – Sense of loss. Hurt is a signal that you have an expectation that’s not being met or you have a sense of loss. Evaluate whether there really is a loss. Next, change your perception or change your way of communicating your needs or change your behavior.
- Anger – Mildly irritated, resentful, livid, rage. This is a signal that an important rule that you have in your life has been violated by somebody else or maybe even you. Clarify your rules or adjust them. Your rules might not match other people’s rules so if you don’t change them, you might be angry the rest of your life.
- Frustration – Held back or hindered in the pursuit of something. The signal is you’re doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. You need to change your approach to achieving your goal.
- Disappointment – Sad, defeated. This is a signal that you need to realize that an expectation or an outcome you had won’t happen, and you need to change your expectation. For example, maybe your timeframe was too short.
- Guilt – Emotions of regret. Guilt is a signal that you violated one of your own standards. Don’t stay in guilt, but don’t deny it. Make things right when you screw up. When you can’t change the past, change your present and future behaviors. Recognize when you’re feeling guilty when you shouldn’t be, change your perception, and let it go.
- Inadequacy – Less than or unworthy. This is a signal that you need to do something to get better. Get up and do something to get better or change your criteria. Maybe your rules are too harsh. You don’t have to be perfect – you simply need to start taking action, such as go practice, to improve at whatever it is.
- Overloaded – Overwhelmed, hopeless, or depressed. This is a signal to reevaluate what is most important to you in this situation. Distinguish between what is a necessity versus. what is a desire. Prioritize your list. Take the first one on your list and do something about it. Do something to take control of events instead of let them control you. The simplest way is to chunk it down, take one thing, and act on it.
- Loneliness – Apart or separate from. The signal is we need a connection with people. Clarify what kind of connection you need: basic friendship, somebody to laugh with, somebody to listen to you, etc. Then change your approach or change your perception.
Tony Robbins on the 10 Negative Emotions and Their Empowering Messages
According to Tony, here are what the 10 negative emotions means in terms of their Action Signals:
Uncomfortable emotions don’t have a tremendous amount of intensity, but they do bother us and create the nagging sensation that things are not quite right.
Boredom, impatience, unease, distress, or mild embarrassment are all sending you a message that something is not quite right.
Maybe the way you’re perceiving things is off, or the actions you’re taking are not producing the results you want.
When you feel uncomfortable, this is a signal to change your state. Clarify what you want, then take action in that direction.
Change your emotional state.
Clarify what you do want.
Refine your actions. Try a slightly different approach and see if you can’t immediately change the way you’re feeling about the situation and/or change the quality of results you’re producing.
Fearful emotions include everything from low levels of concern and apprehension to intense worry, anxiety, fright, and even terror.
Fear serves a purpose, and its message is simple.
Fear is simply the anticipation that something that’s going to happen soon needs to be prepared for.
In the words of the boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”
We need either to prepare to cope with the situation, or to do something to change it.
The tragedy is that most people either try to deny their fear, or they wallow in it.
Neither of these approaches is respecting the message that fear is trying to deliver, so it will continue to pursue you as it tries to get is message across.
You don’t want to surrender to fear and amplify it by starting to think of the worst that could happen, not do you want to pretend it’s not there.
Review what you were feeling fearful about and evaluate what you must do to prepare yourself mentally.
Figure out what actions you need to take to deal with the situation in the best possible way.
Sometimes we’ve done all the preparation we could for something; there’s nothing else we can do–but we still sit around in fear.
This is the point when you must use the antidote to fear: you must have a decision to have faith, knowing you’ve done all you can to prepare for whatever you’re fearing and that most fears in life rarely come to fruition.
If there’s any one emotion that seems to dominate human relationships, both personal and professional, it’s the emotion of hurt.
Feelings of hurt are usually generated by a sense of loss.
When people are hurt, they often lash hout at others.
We need to hear the real message hurt gives us.
The message the hurt signal gives is that we have an expectation that has not been met.
Many times, this feeling arises when we’ve expected somebody to keep their word and they didn’t (even if you didn’t tell them your expectation that, for example, they not share with someone else what you talked with them about).
In this case, you feel a loss of intimacy with this person, maybe a loss of trust.
That sense of loss is what creates the feeling of hurt.
Realize that in reality you may not have lost anything.
Maybe what you need to lose is the false perception that this person is trying to wound or hurt you.
Maybe they really don’t realize the impact of their actions on your life.
Secondly, take a moment and reevaluate the situation.
Ask yourself, “Is there really loss here? Or am I judging this situation too soon, or too harshly?”
A third solution that can help you get out of a sense of hurt is to elegantly and appropriately communicate your feeling of loss to the person involved.
Tell them, “The other day when X-Y-Z happened, I misinterpreted that to mean that you didn’t care, and I have a sense of loss.
Can you clarify for me what really happened?
Simply by changing your communication style and clarifying what’s really going on, you will often find that hurt disappears in a matter of moments.
Angry emotions include everything from mildly irritated to being angry, resentful, furious, or even enraged.
The message of answer is that an important rule or standard that you hold for your life has been violated by someone else, or maybe even you.
Realize that you may have misinterpreted the situation completely, that your anger about this person breaking your rules may be based on the fact that they don’t know what’s most important to you (event though you believe they should).
Realize that even if a person did violate one of your standards, your rules are not necessarily the “right” rules, even though you feel as strongly as you do about them.
Ask yourself a mower empowering question like “In the long run, is it true that this person really cares about me?”
Interrupt the anger by asking yourself, “What can I learn from this? How can I communicate the importance of these standards I hold for myself to this person in a way that causes them to want to help me, and not violate my standards again in the future?
Frustration can come from many avenues.
Any time we feel like we’re surrounded by roadblocks in our lives, where we are continuously putting out effort but not receiving rewards, we tend to feel the emotion of frustration.
The message of frustration is an exciting signal.
It means that your brain believes you could be doing better than you currently are.
Frustration is very different from disappointment, which is feeling that there’s something you want in your life but you’ll never get it.
By contrast, frustration is a very positive sign.
It means that the solution to your problem is within range, but what you’re currently doing isn’t working and you need to change your approach in order to achieve your goal.
It’s a signal for you to become more flexible.
Realize that frustration is your friend, and brainstorm new ways to get a result.
How can you flex your approach?
Get some input on how to deal with the situation.
Find a role model, someone who has found a way to get what you want.
Ask them for input on how you might more effectively produce your desired result.
Get fascinated by what you can learn that could help you handle this challenge not only today, but in the future, in a way that consume very little time or energy and actually creates joy.
Disappointment can be a very destructive emotion if you don’t deal with it quickly.
Disappointment is the devastating feeling of being “let down or that you’re going to miss out on something forever.
Anything that makes you feel sad or defeated as a result of expecting more than you get is disappointing.
The message disappointment offers you is that an expectation you have had–a goal you were really going for — is probably not going to happen, so it’s time to change your expectations to make them more appropriate for this situation and take action to set and achieve a new goal immediately.
And that is the solution.
Immediate figure out something you can learn from this situation that could help you in the future to achieve the very thing you were after in the first place.
Set a new goal, something that will be even more inspiring and something you can make immediate progress toward.
Realize that you may be judging too soon.
Often the things you’re disappointed about are only temporary challenges.
As I’ve said, you and I need to remember that God’s delays are not God’s denials.
You may just be in what I call “lag time.”
People often set themselves up for disappointment by having completely unrealistic expectations.
If you go out today and plant a seed, you can’t go back tomorrow and expect to see a tree.
A fourth major solution to dealing with disappointment is to realize that a situation isn’t over yet, and develop more patience.
Completely reevaluate what you truly want and being to develop and even more effective plan for achieving it.
The most powerful antidote to the emotion of disappointment is cultivating an attitude of positive expectancy about what will happen in the future, regardless of what has happened in the past.
The emotions of guilt, regret, and remorse are among the emotions human beings do most to avoid in life, and this is valuable.
They are painful emotions for us to experience, but they, too, serve a valuable function, one which becomes apparent once we hear the message.
Guilt tells you that you have violated one of your own highest standards, and that you must do something immediately to ensure that you’re not going to violate that standard again in the future.
Acknowledge that you have, in fact, violated a critical standard you hold for yourself.
Absolutely commit yourself to making sure this behavior will never happen again in the future.
Rehearse in your mind how, if you could live again, you could deal with the same situation you feel guilty about in a way that is consistent with your own highest personal standards.
As you commit beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ll never allow the behavior to occur again, you have the right to let go of the guilt.
Guild has then served its purpose to drive you to hold a higher standard in the future.
Utilize it; don’t’ wallow in it!
This feeling of unworthiness occurs anytime we feel we can’t do something we should be able to do.
The challenge of course, is that often we have a completely unfair rule for determining whether we’re inadequate or note.
The message is that you don’t presently have a level of skill for the task at hand.
It’s telling you that you need more information, understanding, strategies, tools or confidence.
Simply ask yourself, “Is this really an appropriate emotion for me to feel in this situation? Am I really inadequate, or do I have to change the way I’m perceiving things?”
If the feeling is justified, the message of inadequacy is that you need to find a way to do something better than you’ve done it before.
9. Overload or Overwhelm
Grief, depression, and helplessness are merely expressions of feeling overloaded or overwhelmed.
Grief happens when you feel like there is no empowering meaning for something that has happened, or that your life is being negatively impacted by people, events or forces that are outside your control.
People in this state become overwhelmed and often being to feel that nothing can change the situation, that problem is too big–it’s permanent, pervasive, and personal.
People go into these emotional states whenever they perceive their world in a way that makes them feel like there’s more going on than they can possibly deal with, i.e., the pact, the amount, or intensity of sensations seems overwhelming.
The message of being overwhelmed is that you need to reevaluate what’s most important to you in this situation.
The reason you’re overloaded is that you’re trying to deal with too many things at once, and you’re trying to change everything overnight.
The feeling of being overloaded or overwhelmed disrupts and destroys more people’s live than just about any other emotion.
Decide, out of all the things you’re dealing with in your life, what the absolute, most important thing is for you to focus on.
Now write down all the things that are most important for you to accomplish and ut the in an order of priority.
Just putting them down on paper will allow you to being to feel a sense of control over what’s going on.
Takle the first thing on your list, and continue to take action until you’ve mastered it.
As soon as you’ve mastered one particular area, you’ll begin to develop momentum.
You’re brain will begin to realize that you are in control and you are not overloaded, overwhelmed, or depressed, that the problem is not permament, and that you can always come up with a solution.
When you feel that it’s appropriate to start letting go of an overwhelming emotion like grief, start focusing on what you can control and realize that there must be some empowering meaning to it all, even though you can’t comprehend it yet
Our self-esteem is often tied to our ability to control our environment.
When we create an environment inside our minds that has too many intesne and simultaneous demands upon us, of course we’ll feel overwhelmed.
But we also have the power to change this by focusing on what we can control and dealing with it a step at a time.
Anything that makes us feel alone, apart or separate from others belongs in this category.
Have you ever felt really lonely?
I don’t think there’s anybody alive who hasn’t.
The message of loneliness is that you need a connection with people.
But what does the message mean?
People often assume it means a sexual connection, or instant intimacy.
Then they feel frustrated because even when they do have intimacy, they still feel lonely.
The solution to loneliness is to realize that you can reach out and make a connection immediately and end the loneliness.
There are caring people everywhere.
Identify what kind of connection you do need.
Do you need an intimate connection?
Maybe you just need some basic friendship, or someone to listen to you or to laugh or talk with.
Remind yourself that what’s great about being lonely is that it means, “I really care about people, and I love to be with them. I need to find out what kind of connection I need with somebody right now, and then take an action immediately to make that happen.”
Take immediate action to reach out and connect with someone.
Embrace Your Negative Emotions As a Call to Action
Your negative emotions are a call to action to change your perception or change your procedure.
I have to say, this is some of the most effective and actionable guidance I’ve heard on mastering emotions.
What I like about it is that rather than simply dismiss your negative emotions or suppress them, it’s about embracing them, and using them to inspire action.
It’s a way to empower yourself to make meaningful changes in your life and make the most of any negative emotion to avoid spiraling down or stewing in your own juices.
You control your emotions instead of letting your emotions control you.
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