Negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger, are usually viewed as experiences to be minimized or avoided. At times, the experience of these emotions can even be viewed by society as character defects or as a lack of resiliency. However, negative emotions such as these provide useful information, that when utilized appropriately, can enrich rather than hamper our lives. In this blog series, we are reviewing the importance of negative emotions as discussed by the research psychologist David H. Barlow and his colleagues in their book the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders: Workbook.
Anxiety is the emotion of fear directed toward a possible future event. Experiencing anxiety helps to motivate us to prepare for possible dangers or problems. This preparation allows us to prevent or decrease the occurrence of potential difficulties. For example, we might need to give an important presentation at school or work. Anxiety would help motivate us to properly prepare and rehearse our presentation in order to avoid doing a poor job. It is possible that a complete lack of anxiety could lead someone to blow off preparing, which could lead to a failing grade at school or a diminishment of our career prospects.
Anger is frequently viewed as a particularly negative emotion. When not handled properly anger can prompt us to behave in a way that can damage our relationships as well as our own mental health. Nevertheless, the emotion of anger provides us with valuable information. We experience anger when we have been mistreated or when an important standard of ours has been violated. Anger prompts us to advocate for ourselves and to uphold our standards. For example, we might feel angry if a friend frequently borrows money without repaying us. Anger can prompt us to speak to our friend to resolve the issue and set appropriate boundaries. It is only when we respond with destructive behavior that anger is a problem.
Although anxiety and anger are not necessarily enjoyable experiences, they provide us with worthwhile information. Anxiety motivates us to prepare for the future whereas anger motivates us to advocate for ourselves. If you are interested in learning more about the value of negative emotions please continue reading this series and or contact us for a free phone consultation.
Author Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA.