Negative and positive emotions good for well being

"The Scream" Source: ChasingArt.com
“The Scream”
Source: ChasingArt.com

HuffPost Live host Ricky Camilleri interviews guests regarding a study by Jonathan Adler Ph.D that shows, “Misery is good for human health.” [Click on link to watch this 10-minute segment of Huff Post Live]

Here’s more about the wellness study from Research Gate:

Mixed emotional experience is associated with and precedes improvements in psychological well-being.

Jonathan M Adler, Hal E Hershfield

Department of Psychology, Franklin W Olin College of Engineering, Needham, Massachusetts, United States of America.

PLoS ONE (impact factor: 4.09). 01/2012; 7(4):e35633. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0035633

Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The relationships between positive and negative emotional experience and physical and psychological well-being have been well-documented. The present study examines the prospective positive relationship between concurrent positive and negative emotional experience and psychological well-being in the context of psychotherapy.
47 adults undergoing psychotherapy completed measures of psychological well-being and wrote private narratives that were coded by trained raters for emotional content.
The specific concurrent experience of happiness and sadness was associated with improvements in psychological well-being above and beyond the impact of the passage of time, personality traits, or the independent effects of happiness and sadness. Changes in mixed emotional experience preceded improvements in well-being.
Experiencing happiness alongside sadness in psychotherapy may be a harbinger of improvement in psychological well-being.

The interview by Camilleri was conducted with Jonathan Adler and three other guests, including Jay Michelson, author of Evolving Dharma, David Nichtern – Senior Shambhala Buddhist Teacher and Lisa Ernst, an artist in Nashville.

I admit, when Camilleri introduced four guests for a 10-minute segment on a show, I had no faith that any depth would be obtained.  But, it was full of interesting statements.  I have transcribed pieces of HuffPost Live below:

Adler: Negative emotions evolved as ways of helping us to adapt to our environment.  Sadness tells you important information.  Negative emotions have important things to teach us.

Michelson: In many cultures, to feel a little melancholy is a sign that you have a soul, that you have depth, not emotional deficiency.

Nichtern –  “According to the Buddhists teachings, if you’re a human being, you’re going to experience suffering… It’s called the first Noble Truth.”

“What’s your attitude toward that?  What’s your outlook?

Camilleri: Why does Buddhism focus so much on suffering?

Ernst : Being open to the whole spectrum of human emotion is what makes life rich.  And that’s what Buddhism really helps us with and teaches us.  It teaches us not to push something away, to learn to be intimate with all of our experience.  And then we can find joy in everything.  It gives us a lot deeper access then if we try to push something away.

Adler: Happiness can bleed over into the manic phase.  The tyranny of happiness in American culture.  The importance of negative emotions.  Emotions act like a conditioner.  Are your thoughts aligned with reality?  Are they being distorted by your emotions?  Use your thoughts to shift your emotions.

Adler: “There’s something about experiencing the affective complexity of life that is good for your psychological well-being.”

Nichtern: “The first point is to acknowledge the suffering and not being in denial about it and oppressing it.  But, the second point is looking deeply at the origin of it, the cause of it.  And, the third point is transforming it.”

To transform suffering, first you have to acknowledge it.

Ernst: “Once we learn to kind of take down that barrier and find a more fluid attitude toward all of the unexpected experiences in life, which are not always so positive, we can flow with it better.  We can be more present with it, and it can not be so much of a burden and offer an opportunity for transformation, to really open our hearts to what is in this life and find joy in the midst of just about anything, ultimately.”

Michelson: You can’t pretend your happy when you’re suffering form PTSD.  You can’t just make the bad go away.  It just stays and gets worse and worse.  Mindfulness training has proven success in helping.

Click to watch on Huff Post Live.

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