Written in: May 2020 Approx Reading Time: 5 mins
It's one of those times when you've got a lot on your plate. 🍽
There are important events coming up, lots to get done, and no time for distractions.
However, right as all of this is happening or about to happen a negative event happens in your life. This could be a wide range of things: the loss of a loved one, not getting the dream job... the list goes on.
Whatever that negative event was it's brought about a lot of strong negative emotions.
Since you're swamped right now you tell yourself that this can wait. It's a distraction. You convince yourself that there's more upside in focusing on what you need to now than there is dealing with your feelings.
For some it might not have even been an important time. You might not have had a lot going on but you were tired of always having to deal with negative events/emotions, so you've started to suppress all of those feelings once they occur. Maybe if you just focus on the good and working on making life better those feelings won't matter anymore.
Sometimes the negative feelings you have don't matter that much and they do fade. But more often than not, when we suppress them they don't fade. They're just left undealt with.
The scenarios I mentioned above, I've been through many times. I know we all have been at times. I know I still will go through times when negative events happen or emotions occur at unprecedented times. I'm only seventeen, there's much to come.
We tend to focus on the negative. ➖
As humans, we naturally gravitate more towards the negative. Our brain has a tendency to put more weight on negative feelings than positive ones. This weight causes us to remember them more.
Psychologists refer to this as the "negativity bias."
This explains why those negative feelings we suppress don't often fade.
Instead, what happens when we suppress our negative feelings we're creating more problems for ourselves. When we thought there would be more upside in the present (and maybe the future too) to push them away, we were totally wrong.
The truth is there's more upside in dealing with our negative feelings as soon they occur.
When we don't we create shackles for ourselves. 🔗
Meet the Shackle Effect.
Shackles? I don't have any shackles on me, even though I'm suppressing negative feelings - you might be thinking.
Not physical shackles.
I call this the "shackle effect."
When you don't deal with negative emotions or suppress them. You create shackles for yourselves and ultimately like real shackles would they hold you back. In this case, from reaching your full potential and living your best life.
How I created emotional shackles for myself. ⛓
It took going through a hard time last November (2019) to learn an important lesson on emotional shackles and dealing with negative emotions for me. With the help of a mentor and those around me.
Before that experience I had (I'll be diving into it in a moment), I had basically become the type of person that was on autopilot to suppress my negative feelings whenever they occurred.
I did not want to talk about my problems. I did not want to even think about them myself. Whenever something bad happened or negative feelings arose I would try to distract myself with more work, come up with excuses on how I can deal with it later, and bury it as deep as I could inside of myself.
I was a problem-avoider. Would not recommend.
In reality, even though I would pretend everything was alright and convinced myself to believe the lie I made up that I was getting way more done by pushing my negative feelings away... I was unhappy and hurting. The negative feelings were always still there in the back of my mind. Waiting to be dealt with eventually.
I had created a lot of emotional shackles for myself. They were holding me back from my reaching my full potential.
🌻Being joyfully fulfilled with life.
🚀Achieving all the goals I was putting so much time and effort trying to achieve.
👭Forming and maintaining good relationships with others and myself. It really is true that if you can't love yourself, you can't truly love anyone else. I don't think that just applies to love, but having good relationships in general. If you don't have a good relationship with yourself, how can you have a good relationship with anyone else?
Once you break down the areas that you're held back from when you don't deal with your negative emotions, you start to realize the downside to suppressing them.
The time I learned to stop suppressing.
Back in November 2019, I was going through that scenario where I had a lot on my plate one week, and with that came lots to do. I did not want any distractions.
Mid-week, something unexpected happened and it turned my world upside down at the time. I'm not going into the details but when it happened I was left feeling extremely hurt.
My initial reaction was feeling really hurt. After that my hurt turned into anger. (This might not be the case for everyone during unprecedented events. I'm an INFP-T, so I'm highly emotional and that's why I initially reacted in the way I did). This was going to disrupt my exciting and full week ahead. I had to suppress how I was feeling and so I tried to.
Now during this time, avoiding my feelings was a bit harder than usual. I'm really grateful for that experience now because it was a life-changer! Many people in my community knew about what happened and would bring it up to check how I was doing - I'm also very grateful for that.
Around four days after the event occurred (and since I started my attempt at suppressing how I felt in hopes to accomplish what I needed to without distraction), one of my mentors dmed me and asked me if we could set up a 1on1 because he knew I was going through a hard time.
I agreed and we met two days later.
Honestly I was kind of tired of talking through what happened with different people, but I really value my mentor's insights and knew that this conversation was going to have to happen.
Monday came and I met up with my mentor to chat. After talking about what happened, he introduced me to the analogy of shackles and it's really stuck with me (if you couldn't tell by me writing this article about it).
He used shackles as an analogy to explain how when you suppress your negative emotions you're holding yourself back from reaching your full potential.
It's like wanting to swim to the surface but no matter how hard you swim you have these shackles weighing you down. They make it harder for you to swim and without them you'd be able to swim faster.
He told me that if I wanted to fly (and I really did) then I needed to deal with my shackles or negative emotions. Both the one that had just come up and ones I carried as baggage beforehand.
An important 🔑 takeaway from this for the person who thinks that dealing with their negative emotions now will hinder their productivity... dealing with your negative emotions will make it easier for you to do whatever you need to do. Productivity included.
"When you don't have shackles weighing you down, you can fly."
Dealing with your shackles is a SUPERPOWER.
Something I've learned from my experience with shackles is that the ability to identify you have shackles or are having negative emotions is a great skill.
Even more so than that the ability to that self-awareness and turn it into action —dealing with your shackles will superpower you! ⚡
You have to figure out how to remove your shackles.
I hope by now you realize the importance of dealing with negative emotions right when they occur. If you have shackles from the past that you still haven't dealt with, I hope you realize that it's important to work on healing from those too.
Removing shackles is different for everyone. It takes some figuring out via personal experimentation to learn what process is best for you. The process of dealing with shackles could also depend on what you're trying to heal from.
You don't need to know how to remove them before you try to. You'll figure it out if you believe you can and take actionable steps to do so. The more important part is that you choose to deal with your emotional shackles over suppressing them. 🔑
While everyone and every case are different, here are some ways I've been able to deal with shackles:
😭Letting myself feel the emotions, I'm feeling. I'm a firm believer that all feelings are valid and that it's okay not to be. If you need to cry. I say cry. It's better to get those emotions out now or let yourself feel hurt by what happened, instead of pretending you don't. Trust me.
📝Writing. I love to write. It's how I express how I'm feeling the best in words. I'd rather write about how I'm feeling than talk about it. For you, talking to someone trusted in your life or a professional might be helpful. When coming to terms with difficult feelings or events, I like to use a notebook or digital document to write how I'm feeling and then from there breakdown why. After that, I come up with action items to start healing from there. It feels great to dump my brain out in the form of writing and actually communicate how I'm feeling.
☀Nature. Spending time outdoors and getting Vitamin D really helps me rejuvenate.
🎨Art. I'm a naturally creative person. Creating art helps me express myself and heal from whatever I'm going through.
📧Writing a letter. Yes, this is also writing. With this one specifically, I like to do one of two things: 1) Write a letter to the person who hurt me about our relationship from the beginning to present. I don't send this letter, it's just for me to get everything out. 2) Write a letter to my future-self with what lessons I want myself to remember from this experience. I use this awesome website to send myself future letters.
➕Having an open mind. Try to find at least one positive thing within the negative feelings. This could be an important lesson or something else.
🌻Working on my relationship with myself. Taking the time to work on removing shackles or stopping them from being created is a step towards bettering your self-relationship. I also find spending time working on your self-relationship can help you move forward from negative events/feelings. After some of the other steps, in my case.
🚨If you are in need of professional help, please seek it.
The Most Important Information:
- As humans, we tend to focus on the negative. This is known as a "negativity bias."
- When we don't deal with negative feelings when they happen or suppress them, we create emotional "shackles" for ourselves.
- Shackles are an analogy for being help back. When we don't deal with negative feelings we're holding ourselves back from reaching our full potential/living our best life.
- Dealing with negative feelings can help boost your productivity.
- You have to figure out how to remove shackles yourself. It's different for everyone.
💌Writing letters to future you: https://www.futureme.org/
➖The negativity bias: https://skillpath.com/blog/positive-fight-natural-tendency-focus-negative
📚The emotion codebook: https://www.amazon.ca/Emotion-Code-Emotions-Abundant-Happiness/dp/0979553709
♥ Love Moment:
I wanted to give a love moment to my mentor Navid Nathoo, who helped me learn about how important it is to deal with negative feelings through his analogy of shackles. 🙏🏼 Today, it's a piece of advice I give to those in my life going through tough times and it's greatly impacted my life for the better.
To fly you have to work on yourself "Inside Out."
I'm a massive Disney fan, so I had to throw at least one reference in here. 😅
From my emotions to yours, give your emotions the attention they need.
If you do that, you can fly. 🐦
Whatever flying means to you.
My call-to-action for those reading this is to take some time to deal with emotional shackles from the past and when new negative emotions arise choose to come to terms with them right away.
Former problem-avoider. Current shackle-remover,
Written by @astro_adara in May 2020.