So I exit Bally’s Fitness today after just signing up for a new membership. As I walk up to my car, I see that ominous little white rectangle that all angelinos dread- a TICKET! In my mid-day-errand-running frenzy, I completely forgot about the measly eight minutes I afforded myself on the parking meter. I went for a tour of the facility and got caught up in my tour guide’s upcoming trip to Cancun. So much for the waived enrollment fee!

When I got in my car and put the ticket inside my purse, I had two choices: 1) get angry, ruminate in self-pity, and think about all the other things I could have used that $50 for, or 2) forget about it and move on.

I chose the latter. This was not an easy thing to do, however. Part of my mind wanted to hold on to this anger. Part of my mind wanted to continue to focus on the injustice as if it would somehow fix the problem. Yet, my logic told me that what was done, was done. There was nothing I could do. I only put in enough money for eight minutes, and I let my time run out.

Negative emotions are like toxins for our mind. Although some times they serve to motivate us to make a necessary change, they often times just hang around, never really doing anything of significance other than making us feel worse.

The next time you are experiencing a negative emotion- be it anger, sadness, shame, fear, guilt, anxiety, worry, jealousy, hatred, etc… Stop and ask yourself, “is this emotion productive or fruitless?” If the emotion is forcing you to make some sort of needed change, than keep it and use it, but practice letting it go when it is no longer of use.

For instance, if you find yourself continuously feeling hurt, sad, and angry because of someone in your life- those feelings are there to tell you that a change needs to take place. Yet, if you are holding on to resentment for a wrongdoing that happened months ago- this is not healthy. You are continually poisoning yourself and perpetuating the wrongdoing without changing or rectifying the originating event (this is a concept that many abuse survivors have a difficult time learning, but letting go of these toxic emotions is one of the first steps towards their healing).

Learning how to identify and let go of toxic emotions is a core pillar in Daniel Goleman‘s best seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. This “emotional intelligence,” Goleman refers to is strongly linked to the “A” in my BALANCE model. I truly believe being able to develop a strong sense of self-awareness can go a long way in creating and maintaining happiness.

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships,  and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com and public speaking/media event requests are handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).

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