Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 6 April 2014





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Learn to overcome your emotions

A year ago, most of the world hadn’t heard of Lupita Nyong’o - but she won the 2014 Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. Incredibly, this was her first film.

Nyong’o came close to tears several times in her emotional acceptance speech, during which she said, “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is due to so much pain in someone else’s.”

The comment was in reference to Patsey, the slave she portrayed in the film, which was based on a real-life memoir. Speaking to director Steve McQueen, she noted that the dead are watching, and that she believed “they are grateful” that he brought their history back to life.

When volatile emotions get out of control and turn destructive, they can lead to problems at work, in home and in your personal relationships

While watching her speech over the internet, I remembered a story told to me by a newly-married young man about a month ago. His wife had bought a bunch of fresh baby carrots, the small slender ones with the green tops, from the local grocer and the husband volunteered to clean the carrots. While he was preparing them, he sensed an increasing level of anger and frustration coming into him.

Within 10 minutes he found himself complaining that the “stupid little carrots” were not worth all the trouble and effort of cleaning. His wife couldn’t understand why he was getting angry for this minor task of cleaning some carrots.

He was about to explode, but for a moment he created a tiny space to himself to check out why he was feeling really mad. All of a sudden he remembered where and when he had experienced that feeling before. He vividly remembered having to prepare crates of baby carrots at the certain hotel in Mid East when he was working as an assistant chef. He had to be meticulous about keeping a 1cm green shoot on each carrot with not a speck of earth on them, especially where the shoot joined the carrot top.

It was actually quite tricky, especially when you had to work very quickly; one slip of the knife and you would cut off the green shoot entirely and then get yelled at and have to suffer your intelligence and family background being insulted. It was all just part of the rough and tumble of working in a One-Star restaurant in the early 90s. It was suddenly very funny to see how he was getting into such a flap about cleaning some carrots on a beautiful Saturday evening. He mentioned it to his wife and both of them burst out laughing. The story ended well because he stopped in his tracks and looked behind.


Such events happen to us almost every other day. Emotions are the most pressing and sometimes painful force in our lives. We are driven day by day by our emotions. Our feelings can alter between dangerous extremes. Veer too far to the left and you’re bordering on rage.

Steer too much to the right and you’re in a state of exaggerated elation. As human beings, we go through all kinds of emotions, just like there are all kinds of weather. These emotions are, more than anything else, just a part of being a living human being. So, what should we do? The simple answer is - we have to accept our emotional lives. It is thus a far better strategy than avoidance.

Emotional acceptance refers to the willingness and ability to accept and experience either positive or negative emotion, to acknowledge and absorb it. Acceptance offers several advantages. First, by accepting our emotions, we are accepting the truth of our situation. This acceptance means that we don’t have to spend our energy pushing the emotion away. Instead, once the emotion is acknowledged, we can then turn to pursue the behaviour that are aligned with our goals and values.

Second, when we accept the emotion, we are giving ourselves a chance to learn about it, become familiar with it, become skilled in its management, and integrate it into our lives. Avoidance doesn’t teach us that, because we can’t learn to do something by not doing it.


Third, acceptance is implicitly similar to saying, “This is not that bad.” Which is the truth - negative emotions may not be fun, but they won’t kill you; experiencing them as they are - annoying but not dangerous - is eventually much less of a drag than the ongoing (failing) attempt to avoid them.

Fourth, when we accept a negative emotion, it tends to lose its destructive power. This is surprising and counter intuitive to many people, but if we think about it for a while, we will see the logic of this approach.

Swimmers who are caught in an undertow and feel themselves being dragged out to sea often panic and begin to swim against the current with all their might. Often, they fatigue, cramp and drown. To survive, such a swimmer should do the opposite - let go. Let the current take him out to sea.

Within a few hundred yards the current will weaken and the swimmer can swim around and back to shore. The same with a powerful emotion: pushing against it is futile and possibly dangerous; but when we accept the emotion, it will run its course while allowing us to run ours.

In a guided meditation you can experience your tense emotions in a safe and nurturing way. You can accept and allow those feelings to be there. By honouring them they melt away leaving you calm and at peace with yourself

Fifth, we must change what we can. We have to take what you’ve learned from our first encounter and put it into practice. Cut down on our stress triggers, and we’ll find ourselves feeling negative emotions less frequently. This could include cutting down on job stress, learning the practices of assertive communication (so we don’t feel trampled by people).

Finally, we must find outlets. Making changes in our lives can cut down on negative emotions, but it won’t eliminate our stress triggers entirely. As we make changes to bring about less frustration, we will also need to find healthful outlets for dealing with these emotions.

Regular exercise can provide an emotional lift as well as an outlet for negative emotions. Finding opportunities for having fun and getting more laughter in our lives can also change our perspectives and relieve stress. If we find a few of these outlets, we’ll feel less overwhelmed when negative emotions do arise.


If you are spiritual oriented, you may also try doing mindfulness exercises to help you become aware of your present experience without passing judgement on it. One way to train yourself to adopt this state is to focus on your breathing while meditating and simply acknowledge any fleeting thoughts or feelings.

This practice may make it easier to accept unpleasant thoughts. Earlier last year a research found that among 125 individuals with a history of trauma who were also in treatment for substance dependence, those who were naturally more mindful both coped better with their trauma and craved their drug less.

Likewise, in 2012 another research found that a therapy that included mindfulness training helped individuals overcome anxiety disorders. It worked not by minimising the number of negative feelings but by training patients to accept those feelings.

It is impossible to avoid negative emotions altogether because to live is to experience setbacks and conflicts. Learning how to cope with those emotions is the key.

- [email protected]


Donate Now |
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lank
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)

| News | Editorial | Finance | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | Montage | Impact | World | Obituaries | Junior | Youth |


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2014 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor