The Emotional Rainbow

June 5, 2014

The Emotional Rainbow

by Daniela Aneis

One of the most common critiques and one of the most wrong ones is that the Positive Psychology movement ignores negative emotions to simply focus on positive emotions. This is quite untrue. What Positive Psychology wishes to do is take the focus out of negative emotions to take a better look at what positive emotions have to offer in terms of human development.

But what we really do need is to learn how to cope with the emotional rainbow that our nature has to offers us. The negative and the positive emotions. They are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary.

Good or bad emotions?

Actually there is no such thing as good or bad emotions, only the necessary ones. Or at least that’s what I tell my patients. Emotions are centered in the most primitive part of our brains (yes, reasoning came after in evolutionary terms) and yet it is one of the most crucial parts of our brain. Can you imagine calling yourself human and not being able to feel anything?

Remember the “fight-or-flight” mechanism, so necessary to our survival as a species? We don’t need to assess in a jungle if that big animal is to eat or is planning on eating you, but our emotions still serve their purpose in our “social survival”. It’s still a jungle out there, only the rules are not as simple as they used to be.

Educate your emotions as a child

This is a job for parents and adults, to educate children on how to deal with their emotions, how to control them and how to understand them. Yes, we are born with emotions but we don’t know how to use them. That’s why when your child is having a huge tantrum, you frustrate him, so that he will learn that things can’t always be done his way, and to be persistent and resilient. And not a brat.

But how can you help a child deal with his/her emotions when you can’t deal with them yourself? “Know Thyself” advised the Greek philosophers. Know what you feel so you can interpret it right.  I have to admit though, I’m more of a “The truth will set you free” kind of girl.  No matter how much it hurts, I have to get the bottom of it.

The Super-Human

Knowing yourself doesn’t imply that you will be a Super-Human. Someone who is able to deal with everything all the time, someone whose life’s setbacks don’t have the same impact on you as others. This is the problem with dichotomizing emotions into negative-positive ones. This bipolarity hurts people and it’s disrespectful to our wide variety of emotions.

When you’re feeling an emotion (positive or negative one), it’s also an information, something to process. What does it mean?

Aren’t all emotions, even the negative ones, what color our life?


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