Tuesday 5 January 2016

Negative Emotions Can Be "Positive"... or Useful

There is a general misconception that "Positive Psychology" means everything is "free ice-cream", "meerkats wearing tweed jackets serving you drinks" or "looking at a nuclear mushroom cloud through rose-coloured, radioactive resistant glasses."  That's why I prefer to use the term "Enriching Psychology" as a title for this blog, because what enriches us doesn't always start from a purely positive place.

For example, I discovered that as I enter my middle-aged years, working out is not as easy, productive and pain-free as it once was.  I really did use to be easy, and I enjoyed it.  Now I enjoy it just as much, but it's more work... and I kept thinking under the Positive Psychology model, I was doing something wrong that it felt like work.

Then I realized that the RESULTS are what matter, and yes, sometimes I had to put in a little bit of work, and the payoff was even more meaningful.

In "The Positive Side of Negative Emotions", the authors propose that "...anger is, or can be anyway, a positive emotion., mobilizing energy and focusing attention, especially to write a perceived wrong, perhaps as a sign of strength.   Negative social emotions may have positive consequences, examining embarrassment, shame, guilt, jealousy and envy in the hands of Henniger and Harris. In an analogy to pain, in social settings, this may be useful to us, to avoid further damage or discomfort, with personal and social benefits.