The Downward Spiral of Wallowing in Dark Emotions

The Downward Spiral of Wallowing in Dark Emotions

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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If it rains outside its not just raining it’s, “absolutely miserable outside.”  Or, every story on the evening news triggers the, “People are more rotten than ever. Our world is doomed,” response? And worse still, even if something good were to happen, such as winning the lottery, the Sky is Falling types cannot control their impulse to tack on the, “Yeah, but now I have to deal with all these financial planners hounding me!” retort.

Individuals like these have gotten into what is referred to as a negative feedback loop, and truly cannot help themselves. They’ve programmed themselves by repeating negative thoughts to the point where they have literally carved a neural pathway in the brain with these habitual responses. No matter what happens in their lives they perceive everything negatively, and respond on auto-pilot.

Your brain can be re-wired

A lot has been written about the promising research in brain plasticity in the last few years, which is the brain’s ability to reshape neural pathways even if  they’ve been ingrained for decades. With physical therapy new neural pathways can be forged after strokes damage areas of the brain to help patients re-learn lost abilities such as walking and speaking. And, this same concept can also be applied to habitual negative thinkers who can retrain their brain’s to think and respond more positively.

I got to thinking about the subject of neural plasticity because of an article I read titled, “Rewire your brain to combat negative thinking, easy steps,” in Monsters and Author and therapist, Patt Lind-Kyle was interviewed for her newest book which is about rewiring the brain to “kick the chronic negativity habit for good.”

The article reminded me of a small but powerful booklet I’d read written in 1935 by Emmet Fox , an eminent New Thought writer from the early part of the century. While I haven’t read Lind-Kyle’s book, which I’m sure is full of great ideas and exercises to rewire the brain I couldn’t help but think of this simple but powerful 19 page booklet that helped me overcome my negative programming very effectively.

Change your thinking – change your life

Fox’s states that you can change your life in a week if you focus intently upon your every thought. He says you, “must watch yourself for a whole week as a cat watches a mouse, and you must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind.” He admits that this will not be easy which is why he prescribes starting with a week. But, within one week, “the habit of positive thinking will begin to be established.” In other words, new neural pathways will begin developing in the brain.

After the first seven days I chose to continue on the mental diet for another twenty-one days. I was amazed at what I learned about myself. The hyper-vigilance I applied to watching my thoughts revealed that I did have areas where my thoughts were undermining my successes – even though anyone who knows me would say I’m a pretty positive person. I found that my self-talk was extremely negative which dragged down my self-esteem.

Examining my thoughts so closely made me see that my self-esteem was much too dependent upon what others thought of me. Beliefs such as thinking you’re attractive makes you vain, or admitting you’re smart makes you a show-off, and speaking up about what you want means you’re pushy, etc.,  were feedback loops that kept me from going after what I truly wanted in life. While I have never been a chronically negative person there was vast room for improvement.

An evolution in thinking

“The Diet” was an eye-opener and just the beginning of a journey I have been on ever since. When I was first introduced to the concept of “change your thinking and change your life” it was life altering. Like most people I’d never paid any attention to my thoughts; frankly I didn’t even know you could do that. I had no idea where to begin until I came across Fox’s Diet which gave me a structure to follow. When I committed to it, I saw my life change very quickly.

While I can’t prove that I did forge new neural pathways I can state for sure that “The Diet” taught me to become aware of my thinking patterns; a habit I continue to this day. Interrupting my negative thoughts as they occurred derailed them from the habitual path they followed. This allowed me to redirect them and forge new more positive ways of thinking.

Since we are what we believe, and our lives and circumstances reflect back to us what we believe – changing our thinking does change our lives.  My advice is try “The Diet.” It’s only seven days – which you’re going to live  anyway, so why not see if you can create thoughts that serve you better?

Here’s 5 tips to get The Diet underway:

1. Carry a small pad and write down every negative thought you have. Anytime you have a negative thought – say to yourself, “No! Stop! or Cancel!” In the beginning you’ll be amazed at how many you each day.

2. Replace negative thoughts with a new positive ones. Write down the new positive thought after the negative one.

3. Look for patterns. Review your notes and catagorize your negative thoughts. Are you more negative in a certain area of your life vs. others such as relationships, career, money, self-esteem etc? Or, have you allowed yourself to become chronically negative in every area? Don’t worry – you can retrain your brain!

4. Create positive affirmations to override these patterns. Repeat the affirmation to yourself numerous times after becoming aware of your own feedback loops. Make sure you use the present tense when you come up with your affirmations. If you have difficulty with creating affirmations I highly recommend reading Louise Hay’s classic book, “You Can Heal Your Life.”

5. If you must spend time with negative thinkers don’t try to change them. Just listen politely – but do not accept what they say. Mentally tell yourself that you choose to reject this type of thinking. When you stop responding to other people’s negativity and just remain quiet, but respectful they eventually start to hear the hollowness of their own words and change – at least around you anyway.

Good Luck! I know you can do it.

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