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WHY HOLDING ONTO NEGATIVE EMOTIONS IS RUINING YOUR LIFE

By Kalyanasundaram Divya
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Have you ever heard people say:

“You are either a cat person or a dog person.”

I have. At my house, we have both cats and dogs. I love both animals equally but they are very different. If I don’t show my cats attention when they want it or if I piss them off somehow they will ignore me for a day or two and favor someone else in the house.

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However, it doesn’t matter what I do with the dog, she is all about me no matter what. I have had cats and dogs all my life and I see this pattern. It is probably not universal but that doesn’t matter.

For the purposes of this comparison let’s just say that cats are equal to people who hold onto their emotions too long and dogs are people who let go of emotions almost instantly.

I am speaking in stereotypes here but dogs are generally the more beloved animal in our society and that is because their love is unconditional.

Imagine a world where you did not hold grudges? A world where you did not feel the need to be right and perpetuate arguments. What would that look like?

Well, it looks a lot like a dog’s life. You are happier than the cats.

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I am going to give real life examples of what happens when you hold onto negative emotions.

Let’s start with ANGER. It is a powerful emotion and it feels good at first. It gives us a high to get angry and let that emotion fill you up. You feel like you can rip trees from the ground and you momentarily omnipotent (this is a delusion by the way). Unfortunately, that power only lasts seconds and what usually winds up happening is that you get burned. That burn can last hours, days, even years! The whole time you are angry is precious time you lose. You will never get that time back.

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You might be angry with an ex-lover, It can be your kids. It can be friends, your boss. ANYONE. I know we have all been angry and held a grudge whether it was for a few minutes or possibly a lot longer. It might not have ruined your whole life but it certainly didn’t help it. I was mad at my son just last night for not listening and then I repeated a mantra in my head and let go:

” I will set aside what I want now for what I want the most.”

That mantra is helpful for me because it can apply to anything. I use it at work and at home. What I wanted in the moment was to get angry but what I want the most is to be a great dad for my son, Hollin.

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Confucious on anger: ” Holding on to anger is like holding onto a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone, except you are the one who gets burned.”

What about sadness? This is a tricky one. It morphs into many things. Once you think you beat it, depression infiltrates the system and you may not even know it’s there for quite some time.

There are tricks to beating sadness. You have to practice letting go. The first step is to admit you hold onto it in the first place. No one wants to admit they are holding onto an emotion. It makes us feel like we are weak.

You see, sadness gives us immediate pleasure too. Not pleasure like you are thinking of, but a narcissistic pleasure. Sadness makes us pity ourselves and it feels good because in our times of lamentation we need someone to comfort us and the quickest someone is us!

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However, when we embrace sadness we let in depression and lose sight of pretty much everything. We develop that “fuck it” attitude. We take time off from work, we outsource our parenting duties to our spouse, relatives, sitters, etc. Once depression’s games set in we look towards apathy which is depression’s devious partner. Apathy sneaks up in the form of TV shows, trashy novels, drinking, “hanging out” with friends, anything that diverts our attention off of the stuff we really want and that is important because the important stuff reminds us of what we are sad about.

Does this ruin our whole life? Mabe not, but does it make it better?

NO

The way to beat sadness is to step up and punch it in the face immediately. Sadness is only strong the longer it stays around. I am going to be honest. This is the one that haunted me for a long time. I didn’t even know it was there. I can almost cry on cue if I think about certain things. I used to not admit that because I loved the idea of being the brooding sad guy. I thought it gave me a poetic edge.

It didn’t. Instead, it inspired anger and tempted me into working only the bare minimum.

Here is how I beat it. At first, whenever I was sad I forced myself to think of a happy moment with my family and I closed my eyes and tried to relive that moment until I smiled. This exercise usually only takes a moment, not long at all and that is because happiness is so much stronger than sadness, it’s just hard to know that when you are sad.

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It gets a lot easier pretty quickly and then I would plan my sadness. I would think of bad things that make me sad on purpose and then I would think of good things.

Why? Because the only way to conquer things is to continually exert your power over them.

Sometimes we need a break. I get it. It is human nature to get angry and sad. That is why you should plan to let these dark emotions out regularly. Go to a boxing or Jui Jitsu class and get your aggression out before it shows up as an outburst. Take five minutes and play the sadness game I outlined. These little things are game changers. In my experience, you cannot achieve anything great in life if you can’t conquer your own self first.