The one technique to stop negative emotion controlling you.
I received a phone call from a good friend of mine over the weekend. I was in my car, so I answered him on loudspeaker and was a surprised by the ferocity with which he launched himself into the conversation.
“Is it ever OK to really f..king hate someone?” he began. “Like really, really hate them with every ounce of your being? So much so that you find no redeeming qualities in this person, and nothing they can say or do will ever make that feeling go away?”
Lucky I was alone, and on the highway.
“Well, that depends, Who?” I said.
My friend was out with his young son and his ex-wife at a concert near his home. He and his son’s mother have been separated for a few years now. The relationship is amicable but can become the exact opposite quite quickly. They trigger each other.
He went on to tell me that he and his ex had just had an enormous fight, over something small and trivial (I seriously can’t even remember what it was all about now). The fight had ruined their day and negatively impacted the time they spent together with their son, time which I know he values above everything else in his life.
I thought about it for a moment, and we began to talk it through.
We all have those people, events or situations in our lives that really get under our skin and dig up hurtful, unproductive and damaging emotions in us. We feel if only that person or thing didn’t exist or never occurred the way it did that everything would be so much easier! Right?
When we get triggered by these strong emotions, it also stirs up negativity in our bodies. We become tense, our blood pressure rises, and it can be quite easy to find ourselves spiraling out of control as the emotion infuses into our thoughts and actions. This can lead us to react in any number of damaging ways; to drink or self-medicate, to become violent or abusive or shut down altogether.
But there is a way to neutralize that emotion in a more positive way, to control it and bring perspective to that event or person that has tipped us over the edge. It’s a technique that’s not easy, but I can promise you it works.
Find a way to be thankful for it.
When I talked to my friend I asked him if there was one single emotion that was the complete 100% opposite of what he felt for his ex-wife, what would that emotion be? And where would he find that in his life as a direct result of her — the person who he felt the negative emotion toward?
After a moment of thought, the answer for him was simple. Love, and his young son.
Because if it wasn’t for his ex, he realised he wouldn’t have access to the most valuable thing in the world to him, the person who produces the greatest amount of love, happiness, and joy in him. It sounded crazy to begin with, but at the very least if it wasn’t for his ex-wife being in his life, he wouldn’t have that, and he could at least be thankful to her for that reason.
Sometimes it is one of the most difficult things we can do — especially for men — to actually explore why we feel a certain way about a person, event or situation that has happened to us. The most productive outcome when we find ourselves in that place of negative emotion is to spend the time to neutralize those feelings by digging deeper and searching out where the complete reverse has occurred in our lives because of that person or event happening. When we find that and can be truly thankful to that person or event for producing it, we grow, rather than masking our hurt or bottling up our feelings in other ways.
When my friend began to realise he could do this, he agreed that he had just as much to be thankful to his ex for as he had to be resentful about. He could pinpoint the triggers that caused him to feel negative emotion toward her. He then found the equal and opposite emotions that have also occurred in his life as a direct result and turned that negativity into pure thankfulness for her being in his life. At that moment, he didn’t hate her anymore. He neutralized it.
So it’s OK to have had strong negative emotions toward someone or something, to really hate it with every inch of your being, but understand it doesn’t serve any purpose other than to take your health and your focus off the things you could be feeling the exact opposite emotions for right now as a direct result of that person, event or situation. All you have to do is find the reason to be thankful for it.
It’s simple advice, and one of the most valuable techniques I’ve come across. So give it a try, and please share it with someone you think may also benefit.
Published in The Huffington Post on 24 June 2017