Understanding negative emotions, myths and facts

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Negative emotions? Unpleasant feelings?


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Chances are you have them. Chances are they’ve intensified this past year, as we’ve struggled with the effects of the pandemic.

Chances are you’ve tried to push them down or numb them out. The good news about “bad” emotions is that they really aren’t bad at all.

This past year we have been dealing with a significant amount of grief and loss, both as a society, and individually.

We might be mourning our pre-pandemic lives or grieving for loved ones. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or your business. These experiences will create feelings that just aren’t easy.

Feeling all our feelings is simply part of being human, and there may be no such thing as “negative” feelings.

In fact, the very feelings we associate with feeling bad are actually good for us. Here are some myths about negative feelings, and the corresponding facts.

Myth : It’s better to suppress – than express – your negative feelings.

Fact : Suppressing your feelings can backfire.

When it comes to emotional behaviours, research shows that recognizing when you’re upset or feeling down is more effective than pushing down those feelings. Studies have shown that emotional cravings for food and alcohol increase when you try to suppress them.



Myth : Anger serves no constructive purpose.

Fact : Anger can actually be our friend when we’re not acting it out. When justified and appropriate, anger can be constructive. It can help clarify and solve problems and correct misunderstandings. When people can express their anger calmly, they are more able to resolve conflict. Some researchers suggest that constructive anger can even promote heart health.


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When we are threatened or attacked, anger can provide the strength we need to protect ourselves or stand our ground. Social movements fueled by anger can also be effective in overcoming injustice in society.



Myth : Sadness serves no purpose.

Fact : In many cultures, sadness is considered an “undesirable” or “problem” emotion that serves no purpose. In fact, sadness serves important functions. Sadness can trigger thinking and behaviour strategies that help us deal with demanding social situations. It is also a healthy way to process an experience of loss.

Myth : if you’re crying, you’re not coping.

Fact : This is just not true. Crying is an indication of strong feelings, to be sure, but tears are a natural way to work through grief, loss and sadness.



Myth : Fear causes us to freeze in our tracks, which makes us open to danger.

Fact : In fact, fear makes human beings get out of harm’s way. Instinctively. We don’t even have to think about it. That’s because our species evolved fear as a way to respond quickly to dangerous situations – which is known as the “fight or flight” response. It allows us to make our escape, and it was essential to our survival. At the same time, being fearful puts us on high alert, bringing us back to the present moment, which can make us better able to deal with danger.

What it boils down to it this: go ahead and feel what you feel. Even if it’s hard or uncomfortable. It may not always be pretty, but it can do you good. If anger, sadness or fear are causing you distress, and these feelings last for a long time, are very intense and/or are interfering with your ability to function, they may indicate a problem. Please seek help.


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For listings of all mental health and addiction services in your community, please visit: The Erie St. Clair Healthline at or 211 Ontario at


24/7 Telephone and Online Resources

CMHA Mental Health First Response

Chatham: 1-866-299-7447

Sarnia: 1-800-307-4319

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Connex Ontario: 1-866-531-2600


Local Resources

CMHA Lambton Kent

(519) 337-5411

St. Clair Child and Youth Services

(519) 337-3701

This content was provided by the CMHA Lambton Kent.

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