Harnessing healthy negative emotions to enhance the joy of life
REBT promotes a focus on qualitatively different emotional responses to adversity. We do not seek simply to reduce the intensity of affect associated with an experience, but to change it. Why? Surely, nobody would choose to continue feeling a negative emotion if they could just as easily feel less emotion? We would argue that choosing to feel less is also choosing to live less.
Imagine a world where we did not respond emotionally, even passionately to adversities that thwart our goals. As we went through life, we would experience a set back, think “Oh well”, feel little, and carry on to the next set back…ad infinitum and ad nauseam. We lose a job, learn how to feel less, and look for another job (as at least we are less depressed than we might have been), but we don’t attend to what went wrong. We feel less anxious about approaching a potential romance, less anxious about being rejected than we might have been. But, why might we have felt depressed about losing our job? Chalk it up to bad luck and learn nothing? Why did we feel anxious about being rejected? There are plenty more fish in the sea, just swipe left or right and move on!
We need our healthy negative emotions. Sure, the unhealthy ones are not all that much use, but the healthy ones give us concern, sadness and the courage to face life differently. That is the key, an unhealthy negative emotion locks you into a way of responding (IT IS HARD NOT TO SHOUT WITH THE CAPS LOCK ON). However, a healthy negative emotion enables us to question ourselves and others, and promotes doing things differently, flexibly: it enables our freedom. What would you prefer? Feel less or feel differently and be free to develop?