Contrast: why negative thoughts are actually positive

Anxiety, frustration, stress, angst, self judgement – I’m sure you know these feelings well – don’t we all?

You know those days (weeks even) when things just don’t go right; you get frustrated really easily by the simplest of things; you feel bitter, resentful, agitated and just generally off. That grey cloud that hangs around for days that you can’t seem to shake. In the past I’ve (mentally) beat myself up when these thoughts have come up. But why do we have these feelings? And is it okay to feel them? Shouldn’t I be focusing on what’s good in my life?

We’re told to look on the bright side, not sweat the small stuff and think positively. But is it actually healthy to sweep these feelings under the rug, pretend everything is fine and ignore them? At some point, those feelings will bubble up again and they will continue returning until we learn to embrace them. 

Contrast. I am learning that we need contrast in our lives – dark vs light, hot vs cold, hard vs easy, yin vs yang. For it is the contrast that helps us realise what is good in our lives. Embracing the negative helps us have a healthier balance as our body/mind/soul is telling us that something needs attention. 

Perhaps we are not getting enough sleep, spending too many hours at work, not paying enough attention to our partner or families or putting societal expectations on our self worth. As Danielle LaPorte puts it (who rocks my world), “Getting off track is not only inevitable, it’s necessary and essential to growth.”

If we ignore these ‘signs’ these feelings will only manifest into exaggerated forms of anxiety, stress, depression and illness. Embracing our faults, flaws and frustrations can actually help us learn what we need more of in our lives and what could be lacking. As with the yin and the yang, there needs to be balance.

There’s a reason we get upset/annoyed/put in tough situations. It forces us to work through and learn from them. Instead of dwelling on the feeling, we should acknowledge it. Not feel guilty or ashamed but rather face and address it. 

A good starting point is to ask; why do I feel this way? Where did this come from? If we follow the root of the feeling, it will help us better understand the root of the issue. Rather than think ‘poor me, why did this happen to me?’, flip it around and think ‘why did this happen for me?’ What do I need to learn from this?’ This is true for me in this moment of my life and it is here to teach me something – validate it. 

Now I know this is easier said than done – I for one can tell you that at times all I want to do is fester in my bad mood. But this is part of it. Taking a step back and if we try to brush these feelings away or pretend they’re not happening, they will come back to haunt us in some way, shape or form. Perhaps when we’ve had a little too much to drink or a simple annoyance finally tips you over the edge.

The thing is, we always come out on the other side; just as night turns into day, our negative thoughts don’t last forever. And as the positive thoughts too can’t always last forever, there will be a next challenge, fear, moment of weakness or moment of self doubt. So next time they pop up, why not embrace and recognise them for what they are? You might get into a good mood even sooner and accept a side of you that makes you who you are.


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