The Myth of Positive Emotions is of course related to The Myth of Negative Emotions
In my work with emotions, I don’t treat any emotion as better or worse than any other. Instead, I focus on why each emotion arises, what job it does, and how you can work with each and every emotion you have.
When you can see your emotions as important parts of your intelligence and your social skills, you can learn to treat each emotion as a specific and necessary helper. This is so much healthier than treating some emotions as magical rewards, and other emotions as major problems.
Every emotion has a purpose, and every emotion is important. You can’t leave any emotions out if you want your life to work.
But sadly, leaving some emotions out and focusing too much attention on others is what most of us are taught to do. We’re taught to suppress or run from the so-called negative emotions, and to overdo or chase after the so-called positive ones.
This one mistake is a doozy, because it teaches us to be comfortable with just a tiny percentage of our emotions, and to react to the rest of them as if they are unwanted things instead of really important parts of our lives.
When we think of emotions as positive or negative, we can’t work with them properly.
When we think of emotions as positive, we tend to like them and value them. We want to feel them regularly, and we want to learn more about them.
But when we think of emotions as negative, we tend to dislike and devalue them. We don’t want to feel them, we tend to feel ashamed about them, and we try to ignore them as much as we possibly can.
When we think of emotions in these positive and negative ways, we tend to feel comfortable only when positive emotions arise.
This is a big part of why we’re so uncomfortable around most emotions; we’ve been taught to treat most of them as problems instead of as necessary and valuable parts of our lives. Another problem: There are a lot more of the so-called negative emotions than there are of the so-called positive ones, which means that most of us feel comfortable with only a very small percentage of our emotions.
I organize the so-called positive emotions into three main categories: Happiness, Contentment, and Joy. It’s amazing to realize that, of the seventeen emotions that help us think, learn, communicate, and live our lives, only three of them are usually considered positive.
Three out of seventeen emotions is just 17.6 percent. We’re taught to feel comfortable with less than a fifth of our emotions!
It’s no wonder, then, that most of us struggle to work with and understand our emotions.
The downsides of the so-called positive emotions
This positive/negative problem also makes us less intelligent about the three so-called positive emotions, because each of them has a downside. When you can remove the positive and negative ideas and simply look at emotions as information, then you won’t be surprised that each emotion has a downside.
Let’s look at the negative things that can happen when happiness, contentment, and joy are overused and overemphasized. (Read more…)