Resistance is Futile
Sometimes when I scroll through Instagram under #leadershipodcasts, I discover some excellent shows that are helpful for leadership development.
Other times, I want to comment on posts and argue about a point that they made.
Instead of posting argumentative comments that would do nothing but discourage my fellow podcasters, I think it is a much more constructive use of my time to preach to you in this blog post!
What bothered me about this Instagram post was the podcast episode’s title.
This podcast was titled: How to Resist Negative Emotions.
You may be saying,” Daniel, what is wrong with that? I want to be able to resist negative emotions!”.
I am sorry that although you want to be able to resist negative emotions, resistance is futile.
Here is why it is pointless to resist negative emotions.
There is no such thing as a negative emotion.
Emotions are. They are not good or bad. We have learned over time that we are uncomfortable with specific emotions. Through cultural conditioning and negative/positive reinforcement, there are certain emotions that we are more uncomfortable with.
One emotion that I used to view as unfavorable is anger. There are not many positive examples of anger in our culture. This is especially true in the Church. If you were ever angry at Church, that was something to snuff out as quickly as possible. After all, it would be best if you didn’t let the sun go down on your anger...
We get that Bible verse wrong because it does not tell us not to get angry. It just says we shouldn’t let that emotion take over our entire lives.
To rephrase, the verse could say,” When you get angry, don’t stay that way too long.”.
Anger is not a negative emotion. It is a pretty useful one! Anger is action-oriented. Anger protects the people you love, including yourself. If we were never to get angry, we would not be whole.
That is why it is dangerous to try and resist or repress these emotions that we deem “negative.” To do so is to deny ourselves the gifts that come with each feeling.
This is not true of just anger. Sadness is helpful as it helps you realize that although you have lost a lot, you have also loved a lot. Sadness can lead to gratefulness. Fear is helpful because, without it, we would all be like the three years old we know. Invincible, stacking cushions to reach the kitchen knives on the counter to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ultimately putting ourselves and those around us in dangerous situations.
As you continue to grow in your leadership, it is necessary to accept these different emotions as tools to be used.
Here are a couple of ways that you can start practicing.
1. Observe yourself.
What emotions are coming up for you in a stressful situation? Are you angry? Are you scared? What is the feeling you are uncomfortable with, and how is that playing into a negative experience? Reflecting in this way is like a one-way mirror to yourself. You are watching yourself and seeing how you react.
2. Sit in the emotion.
After observing how you are feeling, sit in it. Break through the one-way mirror and let yourself experience the room. Let yourself feel the sadness. Discover how that sadness manifests itself in your body. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. Let the emotion run its course. Sit in the room with yourself and your emotion, have some tea, and let it happen.
3. Choose to act.
Go there before you end up there. Be purposeful. Of course, this takes incredible self-awareness. You cannot be self-aware unless you take time to reflect. But after you are aware of your emotions, you can choose how to respond. When you decide to act upon a feeling, you are allowing that emotion into your life. You are letting the emotion do its job instead of resisting until it comes out less healthily. You also get to choose how you will express the emotion. Anger can be scary when it is reactive. But if anger is in response, it is aimed at the correct places and does not hurt innocent bystanders.
I do have a confession to make. I did not listen to that podcast episode with the title I got angry at. They could have said the same things I am saying for all I know.
Either way, I do not like to think of you resisting your emotions and not allowing yourself to experience things meant for your good. Instead of resisting emotions, take some time to consider what emotions you need to sit with a little more often. What are the emotions you are uncomfortable with, and what can you learn from them?
Daniel Eccles is a Certified Career Counselor. He has helped hundreds of emerging leaders get unstuck so that they can start creating opportunities. Daniel also hosts the Learned Opportunity Podcast, where he chats with experts and emerging leaders about opportunity-creating best practices.
Visit DanielEccles.com to learn more about Daniel and his LifeMappingU Course that helps folks figure out what they want out of life, career, and more.