One of the most common mistakes people make when they start learning they are in control of their own feelings is they start attempting to flip every negative feeling into a positive one. They think a thought that makes them feel bad, and because they don't want to feel bad, they flip to a new thought that makes them feel better. This isn't wrong, but it's not always right either.
As I mentioned previously, it's important to process your emotions -- to sit with them rather than push them away. Changing the way you think about and look at something is appropriate, but there are some things you need to allow yourself to feel first before you decide you want to change your perspective.
I had a client tell me she had a hard week with her DMDD son. He said a lot of things that she interpreted as hurtful. She tried telling herself that he didn't mean to be hurtful -- that it was all story she was making up in her mind. That is probably both true and a helpful perspective shift.
But in this case, she found herself buffering, feeling angry, and then fighting back tears -- all signs that although she understood intellectually that she was giving weightier meaning to her son's actions than necessary, there were other concurrent thoughts resulting in feelings that were demanding to be processed. In this case, she was suppressing those emotions.
So what do you do if you find this happening? Go into your body and feel the emotion as much as you can. Allow it to completely wash over and through you. Describe what you feel. Name the emotion.
The tears may start flowing. That's ok -- even if your child is present. Just be sure not to blame the child for your feelings. You might say something like, "My thoughts right now are making me feel ___________ (sad, overwhelmed, guilty), and sometimes that makes me cry. It's ok to feel like this, and it's always ok to cry. If I allow myself to feel the emotion and get it all out, it will help me feel better."
This is a good way to model healthy emotional processing for your child. It also helps them develop empathy and realize that adults are people and have feelings just like they do. You become more human to them. If they're old enough, you could also mention that crying releases the hormones oxytocin and dopamine -- your body's feel-good hormones. Crying not only helps you process the emotion, but it also helps you feel much better once you do.
Remember, the point of looking at your thoughts is never to push away negative emotion. We always want to feel our feelings instead of suppressing them. Once we've done that, THEN we want to examine the stories we're telling ourselves to decide whether they're helpful. When we truly understand -- emotionally as well as intellectually -- that we're punching ourselves in the face with our thoughts -- that's when we want to shift our thinking to yield a more desirable result.
I had a friend tell me this week, "The circumstance brings the pain, and our thoughts bring the suffering." This is so wise. Process that pain before it becomes suffering. Pain is unavoidable. It's when we grab that pain and refuse to let it go that we cause our own suffering.
Negative emotion is part of the full spectrum of life. We need to feel bad sometimes in order to feel good. Negative emotion is part of what makes us feel alive. It is normal and human and never wrong.