At a playgroup I take my small people along to, there is a person that radiates sunshine. She is beautifully captivated by the kids and harnessed by the importance of what you’re talking about all in the same breath. She is always giving herself, to everyone, without a shadow of a thought.

If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’
Roald Dahl

Every so often in life you come across these wonders. People who, often unwittingly, embody goodness in every way. Though they brighten the dreariest day they can also prompt one to reflect internally upon their own presence, in someone else’s day perhaps. I for one, amongst the appreciation I can’t help but feel from being lucky enough to know her, have to make a concerted effort to recognise my occasional envy and process it into inspiration… And what inspiration it is!

Goodness will always shine a light on immorality, as happy on sad, and as light on dark. There is no world without day and night. Bleak, I hear you say? Quite the contrary. Would you know joy if you hadn’t known misery? Would you feel up if you’d never felt down? Him, her, left right, ‘right’, ‘wrong’, positive and negative… We only know a thing compared to another; this is a world of relativity.

When it comes to emotion, there is great emphasis put on the difference between so-called ‘negative’ emotions. Broadly speaking, as draining and painful as the experiencing of ‘negative’ emotions can be, they do us a great favour – they serve a huge purposes that shouldn’t go forgotten. They signal to us that something needs to change, and they’re actually necessary for feeling good.

As a culture we are hot on the value of happiness. Many of us are on a quest for a permanent spot on the spectrum between contentment and ecstasy. Emotions that generate unpleasant feelings, however, tend to be suppressed, identified as unhealthy and even shunned in polite interaction rather than expressed. We’ve got the wrong idea about emotions. It’s no surprise to read that some of us tend to berate ourselves for feeling them.

Each component of every emotion has a critical job to do – the constructive aspect of anger prepares us to move toward what we want, the productive aspect of envy urges us to improve our standing, and the valuable side of embarrassment allows us to take stock and save face.

What we consider to be negative emotions actually highlight opportunities for self-repair and gain; they allow us to not only survive but flourish. Paradoxically, as they aren’t in fact ‘negative’ emotions as such, experiencing them is critical to feeling ‘positive’. They form one half of the full range of psychological states that we must engage with in order to better understand ourselves and others, they provide comparison – a full circle.

Know your emotions, and when and how to deploy them, and you’re holding a powerful tool. Have a better understanding of others’ emotions, and how and why they inform behaviour, and you’re equipped with the key to building and maintaining mutually fulfilled relationships.

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