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Have you ever stopped to consider why we experience unpleasant emotions? In our culture, we often view negative emotions as something to be avoided at all costs. We want to be happy and joyful all the time, right? But what if I told you that these negative emotions are actually crucial to our human experience?

Think about it this way - if we only experienced positive emotions, would we still appreciate them as much? Or would they lose their meaning and become mundane? It's like listening to a song with only one note - it might be pleasant for a moment, but it would quickly become boring. Our emotions, much like music, are meant to ebb and flow, rise and fall.

Of course, it's important to address and manage negative emotions when they become overwhelming or unmanageable. But we must also acknowledge that experiencing both positive and negative emotions is a normal part of being human. It's what makes us feel alive and gives our lives depth and meaning.

Imagine if you could choose between a life without emotions, or a life with both positive and negative emotions - which would you choose? I think most of us would choose the latter, despite the challenges that come with it.

It's important to remember that even unpleasant emotions like shame and anger have a purpose. They can serve as signals that something needs to change or be addressed in our lives. Rather than avoiding these emotions at all costs, we can learn to embrace them and use them as tools for growth and self-improvement.

So, the next time you find yourself experiencing a negative emotion, don't be so quick to dismiss it as "bad". Instead, see it as a natural part of the human experience, and a necessary one at that.

Emotions are a fascinating and complex topic that has intrigued psychologists for decades and it turns out that all emotions serve an important function, even the ones we would prefer not to feel.

Evolutionary psychologists, in particular, have tried to understand why we have certain instincts and behaviors, including emotions. They believe that emotions are a crucial aspect of our evolution as a species, and that each one has a specific purpose.

Paul Ekman, a renowned psychologist, conducted extensive research on emotions and facial expressions. He discovered that our facial expressions are universal, and that there are six basic emotions that all humans experience: fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, and surprise. These emotions are considered "basic" because they follow a specific, organized pattern and serve a vital purpose both socially and biologically.

Although we may not enjoy experiencing unpleasant emotions like fear and sadness, they are essential to our survival. For example, fear can protect us from danger by triggering the fight or flight response, while sadness can motivate us to seek help and support from others.

Once upon a time, our basic emotions evolved to help us survive and thrive in the world. From the fight-or-flight response to the tingle of fear, our emotions influence our every action and guide us towards the tasks we need to complete to succeed. But did you know that our negative emotions, such as anger, guilt, frustration, fear, disgust, jealousy, regret, and sadness, also serve a crucial purpose?

The Functions Behind Unpleasant Emotions

At first glance, these emotions may seem unpleasant and uncomfortable, but they actually play an important role in our lives. Let's dive deeper and explore the magical world of our negative emotions.


Fear, of course, is all about avoiding danger and protecting ourselves from harm. It triggers the fight-flight-freeze response so that we can take immediate action and avoid future threats. It can also show us that something is important to us.


Sadness may be the most uncomfortable emotion of all, but it's an important signal that we need help or connection, whether that help comes from others or from taking time for ourselves to mourn and heal.


It may feel uncomfortable, but it actually helps us express our negative feelings towards something or someone. It protects us from vulnerability and gives us the energy to find a solution to the issue at hand. Besides, it signals us when our boundaries are being crossed and helps us stand up for them.


Guilt, on the other hand, is a moral and social emotion that signals to us that we're doing something wrong. It helps us maintain and repair relationships, influence others, and deal with emotional distress.


When we feel frustrated, it's our brain's way of signaling that we need to use a different tactic or strategy to achieve our goals. While not always pleasant, it can help us become more creative.


Disgust is another emotion that may not feel great, but it actually helps us protect ourselves from illness and potential disease. When we encounter something that's offensive or unpleasant, our brains trigger feelings of disgust to distance ourselves from the source of the problem.


Regret is an emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives, but it's a crucial signal that we need to learn from our mistakes and make better decisions in the future.


Jealousy may feel uncomfortable, but it's actually our brain's way of signaling that a valued relationship may be threatened, prompting us to act to fix it or make it better. Sometimes, however it can stem from low self-confidence and signal too motivatedly without there being an actual threat.

Now, dear you, let us ponder a question: are negative emotions always acceptable? It's a curious matter, isn't it? As with many things in the mental health field, the answer is not a simple one. It all comes down to balance. Our emotions, both positive and negative, have a purpose and should be acknowledged as valid. Experiencing them is a natural part of the human experience and can help us grow and heal. So, don't try to bottle them up, my friend. Let them out, and embrace the feelings that come with them.

But, take heed! While experiencing negative emotions is necessary, experiencing them disproportionately can lead to mental health disorders and issues. Phobias and anxiety disorders, for example, stem from having an irrational fear that is not based on actual threats but perceived ones. Feeling too much anger or jealousy can also lead to destructive behavior and negatively impact our relationships. Too much of anything is usually unsustainable for us humans. It's all about the balance!

In conclusion, our negative emotions may not feel great, but they are a crucial part of our emotional landscape. They help us navigate the world and achieve our goals, and they signal to us when we need to make changes or seek help. So the next time you're feeling angry, guilty, frustrated, fearful, disgusted, jealous, regretful, or sad, remember that these emotions are here to guide you towards a better, happier life. So, remember to listen to your emotions, let them be expressed, and be mindful of how much they are impacting your life. Finding balance is the key to a healthy and fulfilling life. 

If you're looking for practical ways to deal with difficult emotions and improve your emotional wellbeing, I'm here to help. Through hypnosystemic coaching and embodiment psychology, I can guide you in exploring the underlying reasons and needs behind your emotions. This process can lead to a deeper understanding of yourself and a powerful transformation. Book a session with me today and take the first step towards emotional well-being. Maybe it is not as far away as it might seem.

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About the Author Benedikt

As a psychologist and coach, I support people like you to overcome blockages in a coherent and holistic way and to stand up for the life you know is possible.

With Follow The River, I share the 13+ years of experience of my own personal development, as well as the knowledge that stems from working with clients, psychological training and my research work as a positive psychologist for the European leader of positive psychology, Dr. Ilona Boniwell.

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