Dan Lippmann LCSW. Practical, Sustainable Happiness

Are your negative feelings normal?

My boyfriend left me, and I’m so depressed.

My sister broke her promise, and I feel furious.

I have massive credit card debt, and I’m terrified.

These are some common situations that impact our emotional health. We all have negative experiences. And these experiences are bound to upset us and cause negative emotions.

I often talk about using the Mood Switch to change your negative thinking so you can change the way you feel. And while I believe that learning to control your negative moods is important if you want to live a happier, more satisfying life, I certainly don’t believe that you should be happy all the time. I’m not!


Sometimes negative feelings are normal and even necessary. At these times, we should not try to avoid feeling angry or sad or afraid. For example, if a loved one dies, then it’s entirely normal and healthy to feel sad and to grieve. Or if someone is rude to you or mistreats you, it’s entirely normal to feel angry. Or if your spouse is diagnosed with a serious disease, it’s normal to be anxious or afraid.

Everyone has their moments of sadness, fear, or worry. These experiences deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and give us opportunities to learn and grow.

But it’s important to recognize the differences between healthy and unhealthy negative emotions.

Here are a few basic guidelines for telling whether your negative feelings are healthy or unhealthy.

You’re probably experiencing an unhealthy emotion if:

  • your feelings are out of proportion to the situation that set them off (example: you fly into a rage if someone cuts you off in traffic)
  • you view yourself as a helpless victim and feel like giving up
  • you can’t let go of your negative feelings, or it seems like they’ll never go away
  • you blame, avoid, or reject others

On the other hand, you’re probably experiencing a healthy emotion if:

  • your feelings don’t overwhelm you or cause you to feel hopeless
  • you try to understand how you may have added to the problem
  • you look for ways to solve the problem
  • your upsetting feelings lessen and eventually go away
  • you show respect for others, even if you disagree with them

These are just some of the differences. The point is that feeling negative emotion is not bad in and of itself. It depends on the situation, how long your feelings persist, and whether your thoughts are realistic or illogical.

If you recognize that you’re having a healthy, albeit negative feeling, you can then choose whether to accept the feeling, express it, or even take some constructive action. If you notice that your feelings are unhealthy though, then you can use the Mood Switch to change your thoughts which can help you begin to feel better.

When was the last time you experienced healthy vs. unhealthy sadness, anger, or fear? How did you cope with your healthy negative emotions? Did you accept your feelings, express them in a considerate way, or take constructive action to solve the problem? Please share your experience.

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