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We Can Be Positive Without Repressing Our Emotions

Stressed Woman

“Im stronger because of the hard times, wiser because of my mistakes, and happier because I have known sadness.” ~Unknown

One day at my part-time job, my supervisor told me that my boss wanted to talk to me. This was completely unexpected, so I was a bit concerned. Everything had been going so incredibly smoothly in my life for the past week or two, and all I wanted was to keep that oh-so-wonderful peacefulness going.

But when I came into her office, I knew in my entire being that something was off. My stomach clinched up and I could feel my heart starting to sink down to my feet. As she spoke the words, “We are cutting your position, so we don’t need you anymore” I could feel my body wilting.

It was as if I were a flower that had just been placed out in the middle of the Sierra Desert without any water or trees in sight.

I could feel the tears in my eyes begin to emerge. I quickly resisted and held them in to maintain my composure and professionalism.

As I drove home and began to tell my boyfriend, friends, and family what had happened, I noticed that I continued to maintain this composure. No crying. No tears.

This was a bit weird for me, as in the past year or two it had been incredibly easy for me to breakdown and cry whenever I felt upset, stressed, or overwhelmed with emotion.

The next day, I shared my bad news once again with some peers. In that sharing I noticed something that I was doing: Every time sadness came up in my being, I denied it by making a comment like, “But this is good because…” or “Well, the good thing is that…”

I was restricting my emotions with my insistent thoughts telling me to focus on the positive.

In a world where New-Age positivity is running rampant in the self-help or self-improvement sections of bookstores, it can be easy for us to get so caught up in the “be positive” mindset that we end up repressing our emotions.

In repressing our true emotions, we end up hurting ourselves more than we would have if we simply expressed them from the get-go.

However, at the same time, positivity is certainly not a bad thing. Striving to look on the bright side can help us reduce stress and accomplish things that wouldn’t have been able to if we had been sitting around sulking in self-pity, despair, or negativity for weeks or months.

So, how can we manage to find a balance of living in a positive mindset while still being true to our own emotions?

When the feeling emerges, just let it out!

Yes, there may be some circumstances where you may need to wait a bit, but be sure to let it out. If you feel a surge of sadness come over you, cry it out. If you need to talk about your feelings, confide in someone you trust.

Don’t tell yourself to “look on the bright side.” Don’t tell yourself to focus on all the positive things.

Just accept the feeling that you are experiencing and allow yourself to release it. You’ll notice that you feel better in doing so.

When the feelings feel “cleared,” speak to yourself kindly and positively.

If you lost your job, tell yourself throughout the day, “I am capable of getting another job” or “I may find something even more fulfilling.”

If you’ve just gone through a break-up, tell yourself, “I am worthy of a supportive relationship” or “I am creating loving relationships in my life.”

Shifting negative, worrisome thoughts to more empowering ones can help us gradually shift our energy from negative to positive.

Many self-help authors tell us to “be positive” because having a positive attitude helps us get more out of life. People are attracted to positive energy. And positivity helps keep us motivated to continue doing the things we need to do.

Remember that some feelings are going to linger—and that’s okay!

Even if you think you cried it all out or talked it through sufficiently, your feelings may linger.

You’re always going to experience sadness, worry, anger, and so on. It’s part of being human.

So remember to acknowledge and accept that. Though there are certainly positive, happy, successful people out there, know that they still have their low moments and hard days too.

The key to dealing with them successfully is to completely accept whatever you’re feeling, and consciously choose to work through it so you can let it go.

Stressed woman image via Shutterstock

About Jennifer Twardowski

Jennifer is a self and relationship coach and teacher.  She is the founder of jennifertwardowski.com where she helps women create fulfilling relationships andlives by reconnecting with their true heart’s desires. Grab a copy of her Self and Relationship Healing Meditation and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Sophia

    This is a good article. I also wrote a book called Be Happy. One thing i did emphasise in it is its okay to be sad. You need to allow and accept to keep balance. This includes allowing yourself to feel upset

  • Tom

    YES! About time someone noticed how “look on the bright side” or stay positive” when we’re suffering has plagued society. Our emotions, negative or positive need to be acknowledged but we can be mindful and let them come and paas. When I denied my ability to feel sad, I was gradually getting more depressed. Good Reading!

  • Good for you. 🙂

    However, I’d like to make a small distinction. Your words somehow imply that positivity leads you to suppress our true emotions. I personally feel that is not accurate.

    What you suggest as the solution is THE ACTUAL form of positivity.

    Positivity does not mean to suppress negative emotions, but to “transform” it. To be in a place where you genuinely feel positive.

    As you suggest to let go of the negative feelings that emerge, that is a crucial part of positivity.

    Being positive by pretending to avoid your negative emotions isn’t really positivity.

    Take care. 🙂

  • Sherman Smith

    Hey Jennifer,

    Great topic here. I know for most of us guys we are taught to not show any feelings or just to “man up”, but does this really help. Is this really healthy for us? Not really. I look at expresso g your as giving your emotions a good massage to get rid of those emotional kinks as you would do with muscles.

    but I do admit that I have problems expressing myself when I go through those tough times. I tend to look at my other options more so than the problem at hand. Although this is a good thing expressing your feelings can help you get back in balance with yourself!

    Thanks for sharing Jennifer and you have a great weekend!

  • Thanks Sherman! Glad you enjoyed the article! 🙂

  • Exactly! There are many people misunderstand the difference… hence the article. Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

  • Definitely! Thanks Sophia!

  • Yes, that’s exactly what can happen, so we definitely want to try to avoid that by being honest with ourselves. Glad you enjoyed the article. 🙂

  • Reece

    It’s so nice to hear someone say this. Basically, it’s alright to feel sadness!
    With all the ‘think positive’ teachings in the world now, you’re right- we feel obligated to make ourselves feel happy, even when bad things have happened. And that’s fine, as long as we first allow ourselves to feel *whatever* we want to feel. To let it out.
    I got some bad news a few months ago about an injury. We had all thought that it would be treatable, but it turns out it’s not. Even though it’s not major, it’s going to have an impact on my life…..forever.
    When I told people, they tried to force on me the false happiness- the ‘it’ll be fine’, ‘it’s not as bad as you think’. In the end, I had to take myself away from that and allow myself to be sad. It took a while, but now I’m ready to see the positives in it. Luckily, it doesn’t yet need surgery!
    Thanks for the great article.

  • Thank you Reece! Glad you like the article. 🙂

  • bambi

    I feel as though I want to make selfish & self centered people read this article. They mostly never care about other’s feelings or listening unless it benefits them directly & often times secretly, they take joy in your troubling situations. Yes, it’s so nice to hear someone say that feeling sad is normal. With everything so “positively perfect” & anticipating a problem or the need to “fix” before the problem even occurs is so stupid. There’s no quick fix or instant glue for emotions. Feelings need to be felt & expressed to their fullest for however long these feelings need. Only then can positive feelings emerge. And it won’t necessarily mean feeling happiness after negative emotions. Many times, it will feel like an equilibrium has been established after feeling & expressing emotions.

  • Nikunj Verma

    Letting my emotions be cried out to a supporting friend when I am deep distressed really earns me respite. I feel blessed to have a friend who is always there to listen to me, very honestly to myself..the harsh reality takes everything over my bliss..as I get away from him. I am no divine soul to always think positive. I admit..I have my own frustrations, fears and helplessness and I cannot create a world of positiveness..entirely of my own. Everyday I have to struggle to survive..and I do. I do because somewhere deep inside me..despite of all my negativity..I feel..everything is not lost..still there is hope. My pain keeps me alive..and I feel..yes..I can fight…

  • Jennifer – this is a great post that move me tremendously. As one of my key intentions in 2015 is to allow myself to feel – good, bad, neutral – just feel more. I am expressive but it’s always operating from a head place and rarely, my heart because I find “feeling” stuff to be exhaustive. But it is necessary. So thank you for the encouragement and validation of one of my intentions. Be well.

  • Glad to hear you enjoyed the article! 🙂

  • Thanks! So happy you found it beneficial! 🙂

  • Thanks. Stay awesome. 🙂

  • Epsita

    Hi Jennifer,
    I like the perspective of this article- to let everyone know that;” positive thinking or looking at the brighter side,” does not mean- suppressing your negative emotions.

    I am a writer in “positive thinking;” and I encourage my readers to find ways to stop thinking negative, but not by suppressing your negative or sad emotions- rather understanding them! Knowing the roots and the reasons that trigger such thoughts. Because I believe when we accept ourselves- just the way we are (with good and bad qualities), we open the doors to changes. Changes that we think we need to include in our everyday life and relationships.

  • YES YES YES! Trying to pretend to positive when you are feeling something else is only going to make you feel worse. I had a long standing history of hiding my feelings, but one day I decided its time to share myself, which included my feelings. Obviously apprehensive about opening my heart and wounds, I took myself on a bike ride where no one else was around and screamed to the top of my lungs!!! Man, it felt so freeing! Since then I have never looked back and my heart has remained so open and loved.

  • Pat68

    And know that some people’s attempts to poo-poo or squelch your feelings with positivity, is sometimes their attempt to soothe their own discomfort with your pain. And sometimes people are scared of where negativity can lead so they believe in squelching it before it spirals out of control. But it doesn’t have to be that way at all. There actually can be something very cathartic at experiencing the full brunt of one’s feelings.

  • Jeff Shank

    Being positive is an emotion. Everything that happens, everything we see, hear, all the information we take in, passes through our emotional filter. Like wise, everything that comes out, passes through our emotional filter. There is nothing that comes or goes, that ins’t processed through that filter. How we categorize our emotions is what makes up our personality. I have read some discussions that talk about weather we need or could survive without emotions. Why would someone even think about that for more than 2 seconds. Its a moot subject. What could you do about it anyway???

  • Rich Moog

    It’s funny how—although we may have learnt this already—we sometimes forget to let feelings ‘flow’. Denying such feelings the breathe they deserve—even in an attempt to stay positive—doesn’t allow them to pass and creates conflict within.
    Thank you so much for such a lovely mindful article.