What Negative Emotions Teach Us About Love

A friend was telling me about a specific regret she has regarding a family member. It surfaces now and then, and when it does, it loops through her head all day. She knows it’s not “healthy” to dwell on that regret, since there’s nothing that can be done about it now, but she can’t help it. I said to her, “Don’t beat yourself up so much for looping. After all, under so many of our ‘negative’ emotions – anger, worry, sadness, fear, resentment – lies love.” At the heart of her regret was love for the person she was missing.

I started applying this realization to many of the emotions I have been experiencing lately. It was no surprise that underneath so much of my fear and worry was love. That was pretty obvious. But the disillusionment I’ve felt lately with the publishing industry is also coming from a place of love. My love for an industry and an art I feel is so essential that it hurts to see the system so broken. My own feelings of unworthiness lately have stemmed from a story I told myself long ago about what makes us worthy. I had to learn to love myself again, whether I was living up to that manufactured ideal or not.

I’ve never been much of a grudge-holder, but a few months ago, I decided to give it a try. I felt cast aside by someone I loved, so I decided to believe they didn’t matter. I tried to stop caring about them in the same way I had and definitely stopped hoping for more. After a few months of that, I felt no better, because the fact was, they did matter. The love I felt for them was still there. And trying to replace it with feelings of resentment and anger did nothing to dissolve that. It only gave me another burden to carry.

Another friend was telling me about the Welcoming Prayer, where you welcome in an emotion, sit with it, and then let it go. I purposely did not look up exactly how that works, because I knew what the suggestion meant to me. I could picture myself saying, “Welcome, anger. You have every right to be here now. Talk to me. Let’s sit together until it’s time for you to move on.”

It’s such a non-judgmental way to acknowledge all our feelings and let them be. I like to end by asking myself “Where is the love?” And quite often, I find it. Sometimes it’s for the person who wronged me. Sometimes it’s for a passion I wish I could protect. Sometimes it’s love for myself, knowing I’ve probably made the same mistake at some point that this person is making now, and just as I wouldn’t want to be judged, I won’t judge them either.

Finding the love doesn’t mean we condone the behavior. It doesn’t even mean we need to keep that person in our lives. But it does mean we can appreciate that the love was once there (maybe still is) and love is the one emotion that is always welcome.

By Teresa R. Funke

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