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The Downward Spiral of Wallowing in Dark Emotions

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Wallowing in Negative Emotions, Living a problem free life

The Downward Spiral of Wallowing in Your Dark Emotions

Have you ever been pulled way down into your dark emotions, so much so that it was hard to snap out of it?

There are times in life when “bad” things happen that throw us into a tailspin emotionally. Events such as bankruptcy, divorce or the loss of job, to name only a few, can take us to the depths of despair.

After the shock wears off our despair is compounded by flooding fears about our own survival and safety followed by perpetual worry.

We worry about how we are going to pay our bills, feed our family, where we will live, the decisions we have to make, completing paper work, filing papers, dealing with the legal system, making phone calls and going on interviews and on and on.

But, eventually thank goodness, most survive such challenges. And hopefully we not only survive and thrive but we learn a lot about life and ourselves from going through challenging times too.

A Slippery Slope

The trouble starts when we stay at the emotional level of the problem long after it has been resolved and the situation concluded. Living in this state reshapes the brain and imprints upon it a deep neural pathway where we automatically react to everything that occurs with this dark heavy negative outlook.

We are in a state of continually waiting for the “next shoe to drop.” Nothing is ever okay again, or “good” and nothing really makes us happy; forget about seeing the positive side of life or that our glass is half full when this is the mental state of our being.

There are other events such as losing a loved that bring us to these depths too but normal grieving is not what I’m referring to here. Mourning can go on for months or even a few years and it’s part of the healing process in the stages of grief. If it goes too long and the person remains morose about life in general then it can become part of this same syndrome of wallowing.

Brooding makes things worse

A person I knew was passed over for a promotion. For months every evening after work they sat in the dark drinking until it was time to go to bed. They were angry and all they wanted to do was brood over how unfairly they were treated.

A casual remark that it was a beautiful day caused them to turn to me with a menacing sneer and say, “Is it?” It was like a scene out of the film, “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson. I could see the anger glinting in their eyes. How dare I be cheerful when they were morose and life was so horrible?

They finally snapped out of it when they got a new job. But, there was a good six months where they just wanted to brood.

Brooding was how they reacted to everything that happened in their life. This behavior pattern automatically took over in response to any stressors. The brooding response had been ingrained so deeply over the years that they truly weren’t able to just “snap out of it.” It was beyond their control but they weren’t willing to seek the professional help that was necessary to overcome it either.

This is why you need to be aware of the downward spiral of wallowing in your dark emotions. You want to be able to shift out of them before they become deeply imbedded response patterns.

**If you have a mental illness, a condition such as bipolar disorder, or clinical depression this requires professional help and you must seek a qualified therapist.

Nip it in the bud

In my practice I see this once in a while. People will come to me for a session when they are in the throes of dealing with the aftermath of challenging event. After the session they feel more confident that things are going to work out and that life will return to a new semblance of “normal.”

Then, I may hear from them a year later and they are still in this negative mindset. They are not over what happened and living in a state of anger, fear and negativity. When we speak again they respond to any suggestion of positivity by bringing up the problem and pointing out how it’s preventing them from being happy again.

Down the rabbit hole

The pull of negative emotions is strong. It’s easy to allow the dark side to take over. And when we are angry and upset it feels good – at first. Initially expressing our anger and venting it is fine. It’s healthy to let it out and get it off our chest but at some point we need to let go of it so we can move on with our lives. We also need to be aware that if we don’t let go of it we may be creating a negative emotional response pattern that will get harder and harder to overcome with time.

How to Snap Out of Wallowing in Your Dark Emotions:

1. Make a gratitude list. List all the things that you have to be grateful for and that are going right.  Choose to see the good qualities of the people in your life. Write out this list daily. The action of writing will help you connect to all the good you have in your life. Notice something new each day to be grateful for and add that to the list.

2. Shift your focus to the positive. What you focus on expands. When you keep focusing on negativity your mind sifts and sorts through every detail of your day to bring “forward” to your awareness more things to be negative about.  You must shift your focus so that then you condition your mind to bring “forward” all the good in your life.

3. Breathe out the dark emotions. When you feel overwhelmed by negativity stop and focus on breathing. It’s easy: Breathe in through your nose and hold the breath for three counts then let it out through your mouth. Do this five or 10 times and you’ll break the cycle. Tell yourself you are breathing out all the negativity. (Make focused breathing part of a daily routine of meditation and you’re sure to avoid the slippery slope.)

4. Get moving. Go for a walk or a work out. Skip rope, jump on a trampoline or take a swim. Exercise helps the body produce endorphins, chemicals that your body releases which elevate your mood. When you move your body you will naturally begin to feel better.

5. Create a mental trigger. When you feel yourself going down that spiral do something to shift your mental state. An easy thing to do is have an affirmation that you repeat over and over to break you out of the cycle. Try this one: I am now and forever happy, healthy and grateful for my wonderful life. You can make up your own. Think of it as a “band aid” to immediately stop the “emotional” bleeding.

Can you see why nipping prolonged negativity in the bud is a smart thing? How do you deal with snapping out of a negative emotional state? Share with us.

If you enjoyed this article show it to a friend. Use Twitter, Google+ or Facebook to let them know about it.

P.S. Being more in touch with your intuition prevents you from going down that rabbit hole. Learn more - click here.

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6 Comments

  1. Good article about letting go of the past but I wonder what advice you would have for people like me who have ongoing health challenges. I am disabled and it is pretty difficult to stay positive when I am unable to live the way I used to. In constant pain and fatigue. It is hard to be positive or “live in the moment” when in every moment I am reminded that I am not well and I don’t know whether I will ever get better.

    Reply
    • Dear Mary,
      I’m so sorry to hear that you are in constant pain. I cannot imagine living that way and can understand how hard it would be to be positive and “live in the moment.”
      Is there a way you can “manage” your pain? Doctors say that using pain medication to relieve pain is helpful because it not only helps you heal but helps your frame of mind.
      I would also suggest learning to meditate. The deeper you can go and more often you meditate daily the more you may heal.
      Please email me directly and I will offer some more suggestions to you.
      Sending you my very best,
      Angela

      Reply
  2. I love the mental trigger. Maybe it is just thinking of someone you love very much and the good feeling associated with that. When I was about 35 or so my life seemed to crumble–broken relationship, weight gain, job loss. Wherever I looked I saw negativity. You would not have been able to convince me there was anything good in my life. When I thought about the people who loved me, I thought they were better off without me and had their own problems. I never stopped to think about just the love they and I felt. Had I some of the tools you share, I would have recovered much sooner. Or better yet, never gone to the depths of despair. Good to have them now :o) Thanks

    Reply
    • Dear Rosemarie,
      I’m so glad you found this article helpful.
      We all “wallow” at times but the sooner we pick ourselves up the sooner we feel better and our lives get better.
      Hugs,
      Angela

      Reply
  3. Great article. Often very easy to sit in a dark place convinced of, “yeah but that’s how it really is.” – I’ve done it enough myself :)

    Reply

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