Painful situations are a part of life, but your perception of these situations makes all the difference. If you’re holding onto painful memories and feelings, these are very likely causing unnecessary stress and keeping you from leading a happy life.

Negative emotions such as fear, anger and heartache can affect your body and mind, leading to dysfunctional relationships, depression, stress, and disease. So it’s important to not only be aware of your emotions, but also what you can do to release them. It’s completely natural to feel angry and hurt if your partner rejects you, but holding onto this feeling for years will make it impossible for you to move into a healthier relationship. Losing loved ones can make it difficult to move on, but holding on to these feelings for years only prolongs your unhappiness.  

So what makes us cling to our negative emotions? The events of our life determine the patterns we follow. If, for example, your parents always told you to go to bed when you were naughty as a child, you may connect going to bed with negative feelings.

Your brain plays a large part in this process. It assigns an emotion to every piece of incoming sensory information. If your muscles get tense when you argue with someone, they’ll probably tend to do so in the future. In fact, this bodily signal can alert you to your anger. The trick is to recognize these patterns and their underlying causes.

The Negative Contracts We Make

For example, let’s consider the emotion of loneliness and its possible underlying cause. 

Barbara Ann Brennan, in her bestselling book Light Emerging, writes about the negative contracts we make and how these affect various areas of our lives. She gives the example of Gary, a lonely little boy who tries to get the attention of his busy and weary mother by doing things for her or helping her whenever she’s feeling down. When he finds his behavior succeeds in getting her to notice him, he repeats this pattern (much like a dog would!). He believes that if he doesn’t take care of his mother, he won’t get her love. His childhood experience teaches him that love comes at a price.

As a result, when he becomes an adult, his relationships with women are unsuccessful due to his exaggerated care-taking, whether it’s a lover, employee, or business partner. He finds himself being sucked dry and ends up avoiding relationships. His loneliness upsets him, but he probably doesn’t know why his relationships with women don’t work. 

Gary must dig deep to uncover the negative contract he made with his mother and reverse it. He must be ready for initial difficulties before he can ease into the new and positive pattern. The women in his life may not like his new attitude at all. They can no longer count on his unconditional support and affection. However, Gary’s new attitude will eventually benefit everyone involved. While he will realize he deserves love and doesn’t have to pay for it, the women will become more independent by looking after their own welfare. 

Gary may need the help of a professional counselor to understand the underlying cause for his unhappiness and be able to move forward. Don’t hesitate to find the right guidance if you can’t determine a cause for a negative pattern of emotions in your life.


Man is not disturbed by events,

but by the view he takes of them.

– Epictetus