The positive role of negative emotions

The role of negative emotions can be powerful and motivating if we allow them. We hear much about positive rewards, encouragement and inspiration as a way to move us in the direction we want to go. Not much time is given to the helpful role of negative emotions in propelling us towards our goals.

The negative emotions; boredom, disgust, frustration, anger are things that we associate with avoidance. However, when we feel these emotions I believe we can allow them to highlight an area of our lives we desire change. If we allow them to channel our behaviors towards things we want and don’t let them dominate our minds and overcome us, they can be powerful tools for change.

The classic example of a teacher, parent, friend, colleague or society itself telling us we can’t achieve something can push us to prove that person or entity wrong. We can remember the negative emotions brought forward (anger, frustration, injustice) that lit a fire in our hearts and swept us along to do more than we would have. We look back with great satisfaction and say “see, you weren’t right!”. We “prove” them wrong.

The negative emotions may come internally in the form of disappointment, low self esteem or other hard feelings directed towards ourselves by ourselves. I believe even here, maybe especially here, we can use them to understand what we want. Those negative emotions can precipitate self-reflection and can be channelled into a deeper understanding of where we want to go and what we want to accomplish.

Overcoming obstacles, as negative emotions are, can leave lasting fulfillment, strength and resilience.

*Portland, Oregon, the Willamette River near Sellwood*


There are ideas that take years to form. Ones that germinate from youth and are watered by experience. One might call them personal values. I believe we all live by a set of them.  They are hard to articulate and only bubble to the surface under the right conditions for us to have self awareness of their existence and to examine them, so familiar, and yet so foreign as something we hatched in the darkness of our soul come to play on our front lawn.

I submit that not all of our values are good. I believe that this is where an ability to grieve over our mislaid character craftsmanship is powerful. If we have the ability to rise up and look our values over in the sunlight we can choose which to embrace and which to discard, or at least keep at bay.

Our core values are how we see (and out of seeing act) the world, ourselves, and those in our circles, like ripples; the closest circle, then outward spreading in gentle concentric rings fading off into the distance.

*Tarpon Springs, Florida*