As human beings we often experience negative emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, jealousy and the like. Yet more often than not, we do not properly process these emotions and tend to either act them out or suppress them, in both cases leading to unhealthy consequences for us and others.
If we do not intelligently and intentionally process negative emotions, we will personally increasingly experience the detrimental and destructive consequences of either acting out or suppressing emotions such as anger, fear, resentment and rage, progressively leading to both physical disease and to ruined relationships.
As this inability to properly process negative emotions takes its toll on us and our lives, we will find ourselves succumbing to the tyranny of the self as unconsciousness takes its toll on our lives and our results.
Furthermore, if we do not learn to properly process negative emotions, we will increasingly become a source of suffering for others as well, particularly they who are closest to us.
Worst of all, such unconsciousness will be passed on to our children who will not only inherit the scars of trauma such lack of clarity cause, but they will also never learn how to properly handle and process their own negative emotions, perpetuating the cycle of suffering and failure.
Yet by learning how to properly, intentionally and consciously process our experiences of negative emotions, we will not only personally experience greater peace, tranquility and harmony in our own lives, but we will also become a source of light, happiness and success for others.
By learning how to properly process negative emotions, we will move towards and increasingly experience emotional freedom and a state of clarity that will enable us to act with wisdom and intent, leading to resolution and healing rather than greater frustration and failure.
Thus, our children and those close and dependent upon us will learn from our example how to handle their own negative emotions, developing emotional freedom, clarity and intelligence. Thus do we best lead our loved ones to health, happiness and success in their own lives.
How to Process Negative Emotions, Step 1: Acknowledge
The first step in processing negative emotion is to become aware of it. With awareness, you already begin to create space and distance between you and the emotion, which is nothing other than a conditioned chemical response to external stimuli and circumstances over a lifetime of unconscious learning.
Only when you are clear and free of negative emotion can you properly and clearly see the situation in truth as it really is, and only thus can you act with wisdom, intelligence and intent towards a proper course of action.
If emotional instability clouds your perception and prevents you from seeing clearly, any action will be reactive and in resistance to what is. This can only lead to an exacerbation of the very problem you are seeking relief from, for whenever we resist Divine Will as it manifests in the moment, we fail to surrender and we fail the test Life is necessitating in order for us to take a step towards the transcendence of self that is the purpose of this experience and of the spiritual path.
So long as we fail to surrender to Divine Will through first accepting its manifestation, we only increase our own suffering while perpetuating both our drama and victimhood. As the adage goes, what you resist shall persist.
To process negative emotions and take a step towards transcendence, clarity, freedom and light, first simply become aware that you are experiencing a negative emotion by acknowledging it.
You can do this by simply stating to yourself, “I am experiencing anger,” or “fear,” or “jealousy,” or any other emotions you may be feeling. By thus articulating the emotions you are experiencing, you begin the process of separating and dissociating yourself from the negative emotions you are experiencing.
How to Process Negative Emotions, Step 2: Accept
The second step in consciously and intelligently processing negative emotions is to simply accept them and the situation as it is. Again, only by first surrendering to what is can you have any chance of actually changing your circumstances and your experience of them.
On the other hand, by resisting what is, you will necessitate its perpetuation, for such is the Universe as it has been established by the Creator that any force will result in an equal and opposite force. Only thus can we learn humility and surrender, and the realization of the eternal truth upon which all of creation has been established, that there is no god but the One.
Through acceptance and surrender are faith and belief made real, for faith and belief are rewarded by victory and success. Yet resistance and rebellion conversely are rewarded by persistent frustration and failure.
The path of the believer is the way of humility, love and surrender, and this religion leads to and cultivates increasing selflessness. Thus the circumstances of your life serve the greatest and ultimate divine purpose of awakening, for only through transcendence of the self can we ever attain to God-consciousness, known as taqwa.
Through surrender and acceptance of what is, particularly in seeking to process negative emotions, you liberate yourself from your self, leaving behind the density of ego-consciousness and increasingly becoming capable of the ultimate purpose of religion — the realization of love.
To practice acceptance of and surrender to what is, and to properly process negative emotions, simply breathe. Simply breathe and relax, and as you let go of tension in your physical body, you will concurrently release resistance in your mind. Thus surrender is made real, and thus the true purpose of religion is realized.
Furthermore, your breath is sacred and a divine bridge between you and your Lord, for He Almighty affirms in several instances within the Holy Qur’an that breath and life are a holy gift and trust from the Divine Presence, and through which you return to your Sustainer.
So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down unto him in prostration.
— Surah Sod [Holy Qur’an, 38:72]
You will notice in the above holy verse that Allah Almighty equates the surrender of the Universe to man with the presence of divine breath within man. Thus, when you are surrendered and relaxed, and so able to breathe fully and deeply, you are in your power as a deputy of God.
Yet when tense and under the influence of negative emotions, unable to breathe properly and relaxedly, you are demonstrating the dominion of dunya, which is the world, over your being, thus failing to actualize the fundamental truth and testimony of faith that there is no god but God.
Once you have first acknowledged and become consciously aware of the negative emotions you are experiencing, accept and surrender to what is and to Divine Will by simply breathing, relaxing and letting go.
It is for this reason that it is essential to learn how to meditate so as to progressively develop the capacity for stability, surrender and rootedness in the Divine Presence of Peace.
How to Process Negative Emotions, Step 3: Affirm
Once you have consciously acknowledged and brought into awareness the negative emotions you are experiencing, and also accepted and surrendered to the present moment by relinquishing resistance by simply breathing and relaxing, you can then properly process negative emotions by affirming and remembering the truth.
While the first two steps of this process in how to process negative emotions are designed to provide you the presence and the prescience to act freely, independently and with clarity from the fog of emotional instability and irritation, this third step is designed to put everything into perspective by aligning you with truth and with Divine Will.
After you have taken a few moments to regain balance and calm, consciously affirm what you know to be true and free from the discord and dissonance of negative emotions.
At this stage, you can use affirmations to deepen your connection with Truth, for example by gently affirming, “I am at peace, I am clear, I am transcendent, I am free,” and so on.
Even more powerfully, you can directly connect with Truth and Reality by simply affirming the Divine Attributes, “Peace, Strength, Light, Power, Love, Compassion, Forgiveness,” and so on.
Once you are again capable of clear thought, allow your soul to guide you in remembering what you know to be true and in alignment with Divine Will. Remember the trials and tribulations faced by the blessed Messenger of God ﷺ, and how he and his noble companions faced adversity.
Now, you are ready to act in accordance with goodness and with grace by embodying the noble Divine Attributes of God as did the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and they who believe.
In this way, you progress through life and succeed through surrender whereas otherwise you would fail through resistance, and so you pass the tests life necessitates in order to develop the character and personality of a true believer.
In conclusion, I leave you with the words of the great Rumi (qs) and his poem, The Guest House, in which he articulately expresses these principles in prose.
To your divine and eternal success.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Rumi (qs)