Negative feelings and thoughts: What to do with them?

When I share my feelings such as sadness, anger, hopelessness or fear, people usually tell me to cheer up, that I'm being negative or not to "think too much".

I have a friend who is employed and I guess draws a reasonable salary because of his paper qualifications. He shared with me that he had been unable to sleep well due to stress. I asked him what he was stressed out about. He said to me, "I feel insecure about being able to provide for my family." How would you respond to a (real) friend who tells you that? Take a moment to think...

I responded, "You should feel insecure." Now, you might think my response was blunt and cruel. I might have shocked my friend with that response but I didn't think he needed me to sugar-coat the reality. In fact, he proceeded to share with me his ideas on how to get himself into a more financially-secure position and we ended our conversation, for it was late in the night, on a positive note.

What if I responded by advising him not to worry about things that are not within his control, to be positive, not to "think too much", or to "trust in God"? Perhaps he would feel comforted for the night. But the next day, he would definitely still feel the stress.

Negative feelings and states of mind are the mind and body's ways of telling us that something is wrong. (Of course, sometimes it's really all made up in the mind and there is no good reason to feel or think that way at all, e.g. fear of cockroaches - roaches should be more afraid of you than you of them.) It is the negative feeling / thought that causes us to take action, e.g. capturing a tiger because we fear it may kill us. If we try to convince ourselves that the tiger is harmless, we might end up dead.

In modern day life, the types of negative feelings / thoughts are quite complex. It's common to fear losing one's job, fear getting dumped by a bf/gf, fear any thing or person that is foreign, feel angry at other people, feel sad when people let us down, feel hopeless about being a dead-end job, fear of illness, fear of loneliness, etc. These feelings should not be ignored. I'm not suggesting that we should concentrate on the feeling / thought but rather, to understand the cause of the feeling / thought and to do something about it. Doing something may involve physical action, conditioning of the mind, or both.

I realise that I sometimes perform exceedingly well when I have negative feelings / thoughts. On Wednesday, I finally broke my personal record for 2.4km run. In the past year, I had been clocking 14:40 to 15:30. On Tuesday, my timing was 14:57. But on Wednesday, I did it in 13:47 - a 50 second improvement in a day! It wasn't a mistake in noting the time, I did not change my shoes and the weather on both days was similar. How did I do it? I was actually feeling depressed after looking at my old photographs and felt hopeless and alone - I am the only person who can help myself and there's no person or God who can save me if I need to be saved. Throughout the run I kept thinking that I want to be fitter physically now than I was back then in those pictures and that I want build a strong body to minimise the need for physical "help".

A month ago, I ran a 6km hilly dirt trail alone after the sun set. I didn't plan for it; I didn't expect the sun to set so early. It was very dark and I did not have a flash light or torch with me. There was fear in my mind because I had always been "taught" to be afraid of the dark (from TV and from what people say). But I had run this route umpteen times in the day and I know there are no tigers there! Although I could see reasonably well enough in the moon light to allow me to continue running, I still did feel scared that it might get even darker and I won't be able to see anything at all, or a tiger must jump out of the bushes. The fear propelled me to run faster and achieve another personal best. (Or maybe I ran faster because the weather felt cooler in the night.)

Emotionally, negative feelings and thoughts about people and relationships have led me to leave the not-so-good ones and seek a happier life.

So speaking from experience, I think negative thoughts and feelings should be embraced rather than ignored.


David said...


Such, such....

Negativity from you.

Sorry for the little tease.

This is a good post. Keep in mind that negativity for one person may not be the same for someone else.

You and your friend discussed a common fear.
Married wage earners should be concerned about providing for thier family.

Discussing his concerns helped him to work through the paralysis that occurs when one worries without preparations to avoid the possible outcome of a fear turn into reality.

The details of your dicussion are missing, but you mentioned that he left feeling positive. Provide he works with his spouse and create a financial growth and survival plan his family should not enounter insurmountable problems.

Things one cannot control like acts of nature he cannot truly plan for save for having an emergency kit/pack for each member of his family.

(Note to self - avoid discussing God here.)

Your improved training times are influence by many factors. Your so called negative thoughts caused to put out extra effort, and it showed in you lower run times.

Physical fitness is a powerful motivator, and an independent young women such you it appears to be a major motivator. Then again you dive, climb, cycle, and run, so fitness is required for all these activities.

Below are links for LED mini lights with headbands. Stateside these are used by many runners. The sites are U.S. but these brands are available in most of the world.

Last comment.

All the fears you mention are much harder on single unmarrieds.

Research has shown that couples living together have the same level of fears as live alone singles.

The reason is lack of a comitted relationship, and legally established relationship.

Lucky you, it already Friday in SG.

Have a great weekend and do share your response with all.


Anonymous said...

have a read of 'a new earth' by eckhart tolle and we'll be much better handling emotions and situations...i read it when i was (still am actually)in a very low point of my life..but i'm learning to look at things as they are...

Yu-Kym said...

David, my friend discussed with me a business idea. I don't think starting a business is the only way to earn more money.
Thanks for the links for LED headbands. I don't plan on running in the dark alone again!

KK, it's great that you are reading and trying to understand things better. I think understanding is one of the ways to gain greater levels of happiness and satisfaction in life. Building of self confidence and physical fitness are also important.

Darren said...

Its differcult to remain positive all the time. Sometimes its the surrounding and other people decisions that makes one feel negative and having a low morale.

Its unavoidable that people feel nagative when the envoirament and decisions are not on their perspective point of view and natrually they feel that its against them. I often land myself in the above situation when i'm travelling with company in china. I would say sometimes the decision maker make a wrong chioce and i'm right with my opinions, but i still keep a low profile and not to make a winning boast.No point rubbing salt into his misery. Its like i'm a follower in this scenerio and i got to adjust my mindset and just follow the flow, who knows what the end result might be? When I can't change the enviroment, I will adjust myself to the enviroment and try to seek a win win situation.

Yu-Kym said...

Darren, I agree that it's hard to stay positive 100% of the time. Although we like to think that we are in complete control of how we feel regardless of what others do to us, n try to change our mindset, the negative feeling inside is hard to deny.

Becky said...

I agree that negative feelings are hard to deny and that it is hard to stay positive, but it is possible to obtain with a little guidance and practice... Kristen White, author of "Mystic in a Minivan" has a lot of great techniques offered in her book that really do help in training people to be more positive, which in turn makes them feel better.

Anonymous said...

Can someone advice me.
I have a friend residing in my apartment. Recently, he lost his job and savings speculating in stocks & shares. Now he faces possible bankruptcy due to loans he has taken and lost on the stock market.
He's staying here because he has no one to turn to.
I am very depressed, seeing him in this state. He has confided to having sucidal tendencies. I have truck him out before, only to relent and allow him back.
Can anybody chuck a friend out in his moment of need?
After work, I dread returning home as the sight of a beaten person gets me down.
He must be going through a lot of negative feelings and I do not have the heart to chase him out.
What should I do?

David said...


Your friend is beyond your ability to help.
2 Highland Road #LG-01
Singapore 549102
Tel: 6488 0278
Fax: 6285 5311

This Singapore based group offers counseling that your friend needs.

Yu-Kym please forward this to Anonymous.


Yu-Kym said...

Anonymous who mentioned about having a friend residing in my apartment,
Most people would advise you not to kick your friend out because he has nobody else to turn to. But they fail to see that your kind-hearted action is killing you. You are not personally responsible for your friend's life or finances. If he made a killing in the stock market, would he have shared it with you? If you can't perform well at work and lose your job or get depressed/sick, who is going to help you, and you might not be able to help him anymore even if you wanted to.

I think your friend has developed a dependency on you. Bankruptcy is not the end of the world for him. And some bankrupts are richer than those who are not. Sometimes people need to hit rock bottom before their survival instincts kick in and they actually do something about it. Now your friend is depending on you - there is no incentive for him to hard about how to survive on his own.

From what you have written, you do not want to kick him out now - so don't do it yet. Think carefully. You be clear of your boundaries or limits. I'm sure you must have encountered situations where many small bad things happen but you find them tolerable and then one big bad thing that happens and you know it's a hopeless case? It may feel bad but you just know that the best thing to do is to walk away.

Specific to this situation, leave no stone unturned. If you have done everything you can to help him (e.g. helping him seek counselling or connecting him to people who can help him) but he still shows no desire to get himself out of the mess and no consideration for you, when you walk away, you can do it without regret and guilt.

Communicate your intention/requirement/decision to your friend and most importantly stick to them. Be prepared that might be very upset and might voluntarily leave or even kill himself.

I don't know whether you believe in giving up one's life for a friend. If you do it to save his, you might find it worthwhile. However, will giving up yours actually save his? Or will giving up yours only mean that both of you shall die together?

David said...


Very good advice for Anon.

This person is in a potentialy dangerous situation.


Anonymous said...

Yu-Kym and David,
I know a guy in the same straits as Anon. Only that he is accomodating a mentally unsound gal in his apartment. From what I know, she tried to commit sucide, smash things in his apartment & he had to call police. They celled her in mental hospital but he actually went there to take her back! Dunno who is more crazy, he or the gal! I advised him to show no more compassion, she's just using him as a crutch.
David, would you 'truck' a gal out - no mercy at all?

David said...


If I had a female with suicidal problems I would take her in for care.

Now this is purley hypothethetical, but if such a girl was using me as a crutch, I would find out if she had family that could help her. An unmarried partner has limited legal recourse and few if any legal responibilities.

If she had no family and I felt she might be a danger to me I would aid her finding an appropriate shelter. The fate of a long term relationship is another hypothetical discussion.

BTW, long ago I did know and date for a short time a young women who was messed up. She had gone from one abusive relationship to another before I met her. When we started going out and I treated her with kindness and respect she truly did not know how to respond appropriatley as she was used to fighting for affection and love.

Life is full of interesting people, and sadly some make wrong decisions again and again.

I hope this rambling answered your question.
Yu-Kym I thank you for this forum!