Do you ever feel like you’re being led around by the nose by your negative emotions? If so, you are not alone. This is because there are two types of negative emotions: pure and muddy. Pure emotions simply exist as a part of your experience in the world. Sadness that accompanies loss is appropriate to the situation. You feel it, ride it out like a wave, and then feel some relief. On the other hand, muddy emotions are caused by your thinking. They pull you on a downward spiral and don’t let go. There’s no relief.
One of the pioneers of healing these types of negative emotions is Albert Ellis, who argued they arise from unexamined, irrational thoughts. The key error in our thinking is absolutism. An example is your anxiety that arises from believing that it would be absolutely terrible – instead of just bad – if things didn’t go your way. Other examples are the irrational beliefs that we must do well or that others must treat us well.
Here are two fundamental lessons from Albert Ellis on how to conquer these muddy negative emotions:
- Visualize the worst-case scenario. Why is this important? Because without some kind of defined scene, you are left with an infinite sense of horror. So, go ahead, imagine how badly things could go. This type of visualization with help you define and manage your negative emotions.
- Dispute your beliefs. Intercept your irrational thinking and ask if your beliefs are really true. Would it really be unimaginably horrifying if you asked someone out and got rejected? Keep asking questions, and remember — you are attacking the belief, not yourself.
The next time you are being pulled under by your muddy, negative emotions, try one of these strategies. And if you want to learn more about Albert Ellis and his approach, check this out. (Click here.)