Feel Bad About Feeling Bad? Embrace Negative Emotions Instead


From Big Think: According to new research, habitually accepting negative emotions rather than criticizing or suppressing them positively impacts our long-term psychological health.

“There is a lot more to learn about which strategies are most helpful when used for or on behalf of other people (vs. ourselves). There’s good reason to expect that emotional acceptance might be particularly helpful to employ when someone else is upset, compared to strategies that hinge upon the individual ‘feeling better.’ When people are comfortable feeling unpleasant emotions, it can be quite invalidating to have other people (even close friends) try to get them to ‘cheer up’, ‘ look on the bright side’ and so forth.”

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  1. This is such an important topic, and I love Larry David as the poster child of healthy acceptance of negative emotion. It also makes me think of Barbara Ehrenrich’s “Bright-sided,” which I haven’t actually read but like the theme of–her experience with breast cancer and resisting the uber-optimistic, feel-good mantras. But it does always seem to me like the trick is twofold, both accepting the “negative” emotions (if they even are negative, perhaps just difficult but crucial guides or information signals) and also looking for the points where things can be shifted, how that information or guidance can be made best use of. This piece seems to leave out that second half, although I suppose it is sometimes true that if you accept, then the “positive,” or the solution, can emerge naturally. Sometimes…sometimes not.

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  2. As a kid I was told to be HAPPY all the time. At 7 1/2 I was hit by mono and horrible depression. I continued to cope with depression and found it never stayed more then a day or two if I allowed myself to accept the feeling and experience the pain. At 21 I went on Zoloft and spent the next 23 years battling non-stop depression and wanting to kill myself.

    SSRI free at last, my depression is no worse than it was when I was young. And no suicidal fixations! 🙂 Too bad I feel physically sick all the time now.

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  3. Congratulations, Yet, on getting off what I call the FPs, or Fucking Pills. I was on fifteen years and it took me a solid five to get off, multiple hellish attempts before I finally pulled it off. How long since you’ve been off? I ask just because it can take a while for the system to equilibrate. Certainly it was six months for me, probably more, and some say it can take years. I hope you feel much better soon!

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  4. Thank you Daniel. On some kind of psych drug for the past 25 years. Finally tapered off “mood stabilizer” and neuroleptic. Those were easy. Effexor was a doozy. Must have taken 2 years or more. Got sick of the bead counting, since I was living with my parents the final year. Neither of them has any idea to this day!

    Been drug free for almost a month. I feel physically sick all the time and suffer from horrid insomnia 5 nights a week. But, aside from some short term memory issues, I’m okay cognitively.

    Ever since I’ve been on that crap my parents have asked, “Did you take your meds?” even when I did so religiously.

    Ironically they do so to this day. My conclusion? They believe I’m “meds compliant” but it makes a handy put down when what I say annoys them. And they can pretend to be lovingly concerned even as they insult me. Delicious!

    Because of this and other kinds of (unwitting) emotional cruelty I feel no qualms about deceiving them. In a large city now, I lie to Mom about my swell new “mental health” team and what a great new psych doctor I have. Even invented a new drug for him to put me on. Zedulous.

    Credulous with a Z replacing the CR. Ha ha.

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