E.B. Black is a published author who writes fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels.
Over a decade ago, when my mother-in-law and dog died in the fire that burned my house down, my whole world stopped spinning. Everyone else kept going, kept living life around me. Meanwhile, my husband and I were stuck in this shroud of darkness.
Two of our dogs had made it out alive and we had our laptops with us, but other than that we had nothing. No toothbrushes. No changes of clothes. No different shoes. No bed to rest our head.
The night after the fire, we slept on the floor of someone’s house. It was hard and smelled like dog waste. It was horrible.
The worst part to me about it was that I couldn’t be happy, couldn’t be grateful that we weren’t dead. I wanted to be positive. Don’t people tell you to be positive in every situation so your life will feel better?
I had so much guilt over surviving when my mother-in-law and third dog were gone. (One of our dogs also perished in the fire.) I felt sick and exhausted from stress. I couldn’t sleep and I knew only time would allow me to get my life back together and heal from this experience.
But I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to feel better now. I was consumed with toxic positivity. I had this need to feel happy regardless of what was happening.
I hated how vulnerable being depressed made me. I figured that it wasn’t the bad circumstances of life that made me miserable, it was the feelings. If I could just feel happiness, no matter what life threw at me, then everything would always be okay.
The fact that I couldn’t control my emotions made me feel frustrated. I didn’t want to feel certain things. I didn’t see the point in them. I still hate negative emotions to this day.
But I’ve started to realize that my life would be much worse without these feelings that I resent, so I’ve compiled a list of why negative feelings actually have a positive impact on everyone’s life. Negative feelings are hard and horrible, but they often have a purpose.
Here is that list:
1. Negative Emotions Make You Human
Not feeling any negative emotions sounds good on the surface. Who doesn’t want to feel happy and grateful all of the time?
But then, when you imagine someone close to you dying and you being in a room filled with people who can’t feel negative emotions, the idea becomes creepy. Being at a funeral, where everyone is smiling and unaffected by the death that has taken place is unsettling. Imagine a room where you are sobbing and looking in the dead eyes of grinning humans as they all tell you to be grateful you ever had someone to lose in the first place. It makes them all sound heartless, inhuman, and judgmental. They might even seem monstrous.
In order to be human, in order to make sense as a person, you must feel the full range of emotions, both negative and positive. We connect as human beings through our positive emotions, like laughter and joy, yes. But we also draw together and feel kinship when we share negative emotions and experiences.
2. They Show That You Care
Like I said, we connect to people through positive feelings, yes, but also negative.
When we care about someone, we don’t like to see them suffer. If someone laughs every time their friend trips or breaks a bone, after awhile that friend will assume that this person doesn’t care.
Empathy is when you see someone suffering and it effects you as well and through our empathy, others know we care. When we feel their pain, they know we matter to them.
Empathy is actually a painful feeling because you’re taking on part of someone else’s pain, which is why people in certain sympathetic fields like medical care and psychology, get burnt out sometimes and can’t feel empathy for awhile. They’ve been forced to feel it again and again for every patient over a long period of time, so they shut down.
But if you never empathize with other people, they will assume you don’t care. We have to suffer with others in order to have real connections with them.
3. They Push You Towards Positive Change For Yourself
This is not about beating yourself up emotionally. It’s not about low self-esteem or hating one’s self. Those don’t help anyone change.
It’s actually about loving yourself and wanting better for yourself. But in order to want better, you have to feel unsatisfied with what you currently have. You have to have a reason to want to push yourself. That feeling can be awful, but it can be a feeling that you turn into something beautiful.
4. They Push You Towards Positive Change For The World
It’s easy and preferable sometimes to be in a bubble. There’s so much suffering in the world that if you’re not currently a part of it, you may desire to ignore it.
But we need to notice and feel pain for other people. If we don’t, if we choose to be happy all the time, and always shove away people’s pain, then we will never try to be good people. We will never do anything to help another person.
Humanity is at its best when we are helping and taking care of each other and the world around us. Without feeling any negative emotions towards what we see in the world, nothing will ever get better and more humans will continue to suffer because no one is motivated to change anything. We need people to want to stand up and help others, but that only happens when they feel negative feelings first.
5. They Protect You
I struggle with chronic physical pain. I have different conditions, including neuropathy and migraines, that slow me down and make me suffer on a regular basis. The idea of never feeling pain again sounds very appealing to me, but without that ability, I would likely hurt myself very badly in a lot of ways.
Pain, whether it’s physical or mental, can help us because it stops us from doing things that will hurt us. Like if you reach in the oven and grab a hot tray, the pain in your hand you will feel as a result will stop you from burning yourself even worse. It will cause you to pull your hand away so you don’t suffer anymore.
In the same way, negative emotions about certain people and situations can cause us to pull away from those things before they hurt us or hurt us even worse. Without those negative emotions, people can use or abuse us and we might never pull away from them.
Below, is a video, about a girl born without the ability to feel pain and some of the ways it has hurt her life badly. She doesn’t have that warning sign of physical pain that caused her to stop doing things and you will see as a result that she has harmed herself many times by accident because negative emotions, pain, protects us in many situations.
6. They Give You Boundaries
We all need to learn how to say no. Learning how to do this can be very hard and I think for some of us, if we didn’t feel any negative emotions, we might end up giving and giving until we perish.
But boundaries are about knowing who you are and what your limits are. We are all only finite people. We can only do and be so many things. So negative emotions let you know when you’re bumping up against your limits to help you say no.
A lot of people are terrified of having boundaries. They’re scared of anger making them into a monster. The video below is about how anger is actually a tool that when used in a positive way can improve your life instead of destroy it.
It’s because negative emotions aren’t inherently bad. Some people use anger as an excuse to hurt others, but that’s not what it’s for. Anger doesn’t always have to result in harm towards other people. Negative emotions used in a productive way can actually be a very positive thing in your life.
7. They Help You Recognize Your Needs
In America, especially, so many people are workaholics. They often neglect their own needs and wants in order to get things done.
But like I said in the previous point, we are only finite beings, so sometimes our feelings both physical and mental, will act as alarms to tell you to stop so you can recover from all the things you’ve been doing.
All humans, no matter the age, need periods of rest. We are actually more productive during the times we do work if we get rest.
So many people try to do anything: drink coffee, take vitamin shots, or whatever, in order to turn off those alarms in their body that tell them they need a break, whether physical or mental.
But this just leads to burn out and illness because those negative emotions are there for a reason. They’re there to tell you to love yourself more and pay attention to your needs.
8. They Help You Bond With Others
Like I said, negative emotions can draw people together. Not just with empathy though, but wit’s people who experience the same horrible situation together.
What my husband and I went through when our house burned down and his mother and our dog died, was really traumatic. We’ve both cried about it a ton of times.
And sometimes experiencing bad things with someone else can rip you and them apart.
But when it doesn’t, when you two work through all of it, and wind up on the other side together, you draw closer together. Because you saw each other at your worst and have an experience together that no one else can understand without experiencing it for themselves. There are just some things words can’t say, but that hearts who have been through the same thing understand.
9. They Make The Good Times Even Better
Having bad emotions and bad experiences makes you feel more grateful during the good times. It’s like if you go all day without eating much and then you have a really good, really large dinner. Somehow everything tastes more flavorful and perfect because you are so hungry. Maybe you were thankful for the food before, but you are even more thankful now. It makes the good that much better after suffering for awhile.
10. They Allow You To Help Others
It’s often when we have to drag ourselves through the darkest times of life that we gain a lot of wisdom and strength that we can use to help others.
I don’t know about you, but when I receive advice from other people, I usually prefer to only receive it from either someone who is an expert in the field or someone who has gone through the same thing as me. Because they know what I am talking about, they know what going through a bad thing feels like, therefore, they are better able to help me, instead of possibly causing me further harm with their lack of compassion and bad advice.
There’s A Limit
I’ve suffered through chronic pain and depression. So while we can’t survive without negative emotions, we also can’t survive if we feel nothing but the negative. That’s why it’s important not to pick on people who are struggling and for struggling people to be offered help and hope. Life has to be more than pain. It needs to be good feelings as well for there to be a balance.
But maybe, just knowing that the bad feelings have a purpose that we can use, can help us get through the bad times. At least, this knowledge, has helped me.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 EB Black