“If you want the rainbow, you need to deal with the rain” – John Green
Our brains, like the rest of our bodies, are designed to heal and regenerate. Just as our lungs are designed to breathe out the bad and in the good air, our minds need to deal with bad thoughts to make way for healthier new ones. It’s not just the extreme of holding our breath that will cause our lungs to explode it’s the shallow breathing or breathing in toxins that causes long-term oxygen deprivation and cell death. So too it is ignoring our pain, from annoyances to misery that deprives us of the ability to engage fully in the good parts of our lives and grow.
You cannot move on to a positive emotional state while your brain is filled with misery. You need to jump into that misery to excavate the old, to open the space for the new. Our brains only have so much capacity to think (emotions are just old thoughts) and if it is full it cannot take new happy thoughts. Like breathing, you need to think out the bad before you can think in the good.
But even worse, our brains attach new thoughts to similar old ones for efficiency. We accept new thoughts faster that fit well with our existing ones. For efficiency, our brains are more alert to new thoughts that fit in with the old ones compared with new ones that there is nowhere to file. If all your old thoughts are filled with pain and fear it will have a hard time fitting the lovely positive new ones anywhere as equals.
If spending an hour each day doing ‘positive’ thinking can have no effect on your mood because those thoughts have nothing to latch on to, but your brain is re-energising fear and pain from a just a minute’s negative processing, why actively dwell on the negative? To resolve, or at least reduce, the link between the historical events and our current survival so that your brain can move out of survival mode by no longer being reminded of past danger and can free processing for growth.
Resolved is different from forgotten. It’s also true that you can resolve emotions around events that you will never forget. When you think about it, there may even be some residue negative charge/thoughts, but this is akin to scar tissue which is not going to spread into something more dangerous by continuing to influence your thoughts and actions on a daily basis.
How To Resolve Your Old Negative Emotions
1. Have them
Feeling it again, over and over, until the feelings lessen. Think about it, talk about it, cry, stomp your feet, rage against the gym equipment etc. If you cannot find specific events to focus on yet you are feeling down you can do a general emotion dump. My favourite technique for this is EFT and the Ortner’s are my favourite practitioners of this. https://www.thetappingsolution.com/
2. Get professional help
If you have suffered any of these life events; an assault, loss of a significant other through divorce or death, public humiliation, bankruptcy, been fired etc, it is best to do this with a medical professional such as a psychologist or clinically qualified therapist, not a life or business coach. Do not underestimate the depth of these emotions because you appear to be ‘coping’ or it wasn’t as bad as what other people have experienced. Any event that endangers our survival, physically, emotionally or financial will dig into the deepest level of our subconscious because survival is the primary function of the brain and takes priority or everything else.
Regardless of the event if you feel like you are bordering on depression, or you have in ANY WAY been limiting your interaction with others; stopped applying for new jobs or dating or even engaging less in a sport or social activity, absolutely see a medical professional.
3. Get systematic
If the emotional charge is reduced significantly by feeling it actively but does not resolve fully, examine your memories in a systematic detailed way, put your thoughts under a microscope and engage the logic circuits.
This could be by writing a list or journaling exactly what happened. Get really detailed. Like super detailed, include every tiny thing you can remember, time of day, weather, smell, what you were wearing. Or, if there was a single significant event, write it out as a play script including dialogue and directions to the actors.
Your brain’s capacity for logic will aid you here in two ways; analysing the components can clarify which are still dangerous, your brain will then start searching subconsciously for a solution to resolve the remaining issues not everything related to the event.
4. Rewrite history
I have used the write a ‘script for a play’ a few times. If I first have a good cry, stomp, EFT session before starting to write, I usually find I can no longer recall all the issues in enough detail to finish the play. I then continue writing it as fiction and editing the factual parts and just having fun with it. These improved fictional edits then stay in memory ready to do or say the next time something similar happens.
Your brain does not know the difference between memories of thoughts that you rehearse or imagined, compared to thoughts of events that happened if they are of equal detail. Therefore, imagining yourself doing something is a great way to prepare for doing it better. Athletes actively do this all the time. It’s not about imagining it ending well, the victory, rather imagining DOING it well. See your legs pumping faster than ever before as you run the race and then standing on the podium receiving your medal.
GETTING HAPPY BY HAVING MORE HAPPY THOUGHTS
Fill Your Day With Good Stuff.
Scientific research shows smiling and laughing have positive effects on mental and physical health. Stay alert to things to smile and laugh at. Smile and laugh longer when these things happen.
Actively create better content by adding events that make you happy. Create a list of 5 positive little things that you can spread through every day. One of mine is to buy a coffee from my favourite café and really savour that first taste. You might listen to great music on headphones and shut out the rest or watch feel-good movies and read books that leave you feeling inspired or filled with hope. Watch Frozen 12 times, even if you don’t have kids.
The Power Of Gratitude’s
The reason gratitude’s work way better than ‘positive’ thinking or affirmations is because you are reinforcing things that have happened to you and are already fully formed in memory. There are existing memories to attach the positive gratitude thoughts too. Gratitude’s don’t work if you cannot think why these events are positive. Your brain is not an idiot. The generic ‘everything occurs for a reason’ is not enough. You must actually see the positive to feel happy.
Having a daily evening gratitude ritual is a great way to resolve potentially negative daily events by analysing them for positive content to be grateful for. It will also change the ‘file to long-term memory’ balance while you sleep. Your brain will continue highlighting the positive events of the day to file and sending to trash the day’s insignificant events leaving your brain better prepared for processing more positive stuff tomorrow.
You can start this ‘clearing’ through the day long before you actually go to sleep too, like as you cook, or on your trip home from work. Better still, start before you leave work. You can end the workday with a positive sense of closure or by writing a better to-do list for tomorrow. Either way, you can then leave work at work.
If you have young children, you can instal this habit with them by playing the ‘name three happy things’ during their bed-time routine. It’s not too late for grumpy teenagers either, you’re just going to need to debate the events of their day until they get the hang of seeing the good for themselves.
Make it part of your own bedtime routine. If your day was filled with boring uneventful stuff you may be unable to whip up any genuine gratitude’s. It’s ok to end your day thinking about anything from days, weeks or years past that you are still grateful for.