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Using “Negative” Feelings to Get You What You Want

Here’s an example of how leaning into all of your feelings – even the so-called “negative feelings” – works.

This morning I went to my usual, fairly challenging, workout class at Equinox. Between my own suspected concussion (surf board to head) + my dog’s trip to the emergency room, I’d been a couch potato for basically a week and just DID NOT want to go. Did not feel like going. Didn’t want to be there when I got there. Most people would use a cognitive strategy related to discipline to get and keep them in the class.

I however leaned into my feelings. I 100% focused on “I hate this”. I let myself physically connect to my aversion at the thought of 45 minutes of lifting weights while doing bends/stretches.

Alas, I also predicted what I would feel in the future. I don’t stay, I will feel bad (actually worse) in two ways 1) just physically and 2) mentally, self-respect. I felt a real fear of losing the fitness I gained over the summer and I knew I would be mad at myself for quitting. In other words, I channeled my fear of future regret into an anti-dote to the present moment distaste.

On both sides of this equation I focused on the negative feelings and you know what, I did NOT get more negative. I got more positive. About 15 minutes into it, I no longer hated it. At 20-25 minutes, I was feeling great. Wouldn’t even have really minded a longer class. Afterwards, I of course felt terrific.

It’s common in some mental-skills circles to encourage only positive emotion and to dictate “You give power to what you focus on” but why then didn’t I quit at the “I hate it” stage? And how did the negative vs. negative end up with positive?


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  1. Nissreen Issa

    I have always wanted a fit and healthy body, and this meant to get up and exercise. Every time I decided that I will start exercising – even walking for half an hour – something else came up as priority and I kept postponing this goal of mine. Till I reached a weight that I am not very pleased about and suffered back pain. I reached a point where I “hated” my body and my laziness and this was my drive so far. I managed to lose weight and I am still in the process. So, I think I can totally relate to your post and it is quit interesting how a negative thought can help in making a positive reality.

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