Handling Negative Emotions - Swim Concepts

As human beings, negative feelings are created when there is a clash between what you feel and the general/acceptable way you are expected to feel or react to a situation. For instance, some people believe that a man should not cry, so if a person unused to such belief finds himself in such company, he tries to conform. It, therefore, means that human beings have the complicated tendency of feeling one way and acting out in other ways. The problem with not being upfront with the exact way you feel, after cross-checking its authenticity, is that it creates new sets of problems.

The inhibition of feelings comes with a cost. Let’s consider what happens as individuals try to repress, distract, avoid or suppress their feelings. Such suppressed feeling does not just vanish, they go into the subconscious while still carrying its full potential.

As discussed earlier the function of the emotion is to communicate information about needs and goals, which means that emotions (especially negative ones) are directional. It is meant to be directed at ‘injustice’ done to you. If this emotion is however suppressed, the negative emotion has not accomplished why it was generated and so is still potent.

This is therefore what happens when you try to block negative emotions all the time. The more you try to suppress the emotion, the more mental energy will be needed to push that reality to the background. And because the emotion being felt is real to you but have to be hidden because you have to conform to acceptable standards, there is a clash within. This clash causes you be harder on yourself which makes you increasingly develop harsher and critical language to inhibit the feelings. In essence, it means instead of directing the negative emotion towards the object of frustration, you are directing it at yourself! That is, your core feelings are wounded and judged by the self-consciousness system, which creates a bad intrapsychic cycle, a cycle where an individual turns against themselves, which can easily lead to depression.

Hopefully, this brings into view how the maladaptive processing of emotions might result into clinically significant problems. Let me add two more pieces. First, as noted in the description of basic emotions, people differ in terms of the sensitivity of their negative emotion system. This is called “trait neuroticism”. Individuals high in trait neuroticism are thus particularly likely to struggle with these issues because they are regularly having stronger negative feelings than those around them, which can create complicated interpersonal dynamics, especially if folks don’t have a good frame for understanding this (and often they do not).

The result of this is that there is an increasing vulnerability that they will be triggered and released uncontrollably. This often is what is going on when someone unexpectedly flies off the handle with rage or has an anxiety attack or a depressive crash or a profound experience of self-loathing that results in a suicide attempt. They have been trying to hold back these feelings, but eventually, enough triggers build and is filled to the brim, and all those stuffed feelings come rushing out.

In such a moment, an individual becomes all of the feelings and often cannot help but to act on the powerful negative emotional impulses. Of course, such raw, painful, impulsive displays tend to cause more problems than they solve, it only engrains such outburst (character), because, after such an episode, many individuals will want to lock down their emotions, even more, setting the whole thing up to repeat.

In conclusion, speak as truthfully as possible about how you feel. It is better to confront negative emotions and resolve them. Don’t always be afraid of confrontations. You can confront situations without being quarrelsome. But never hide your emotions especially in a relationship because it creates more problems than it solves.


Nike Adekunle is the president of SWiM (Sisters, Wives and Mothers} Forum. At SWiM, Nike and her team equips men, women, married and singles with all the information and strategies needed to make relationships and marriage work. In collaboration with members of SWiM, She hosts REALationship Unfeigned (an initiative that promotes healthy relationships) and Roaring Lioness (a prayer focus group). Nike is a relationship coach, marriage counselor, blogger, writer and an author. She currently has four books to her credit. To get her books, visit swimconcepts.org/shop/

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