Negative emotions might be the most unappreciated source of your personal power. Don’t push them away or try to avoid them – you can’t and trying to will only hurt you even if you can’t see the cause and effect. Instead, tap into their power.
With some books, when you read the title, you feel like you just learned everything in the book, and there’s no point reading it because you are convinced. The books I love are the ones that I follow right to the last word. In Braving the Wilderness, it was the first time a dedication struck me with insight.
I’d already listened to the whole book, but I got the print version because sometimes my eyes have to see what my ears know. The dedication said it all. “To my father: Thank you for insisting that I always speak up and take a stand- even when you passionately disagree.”
A Difference of Advice
In my family, it was the opposite: “If you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all.”
That advice is a killer.
Suppressing anger has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, and others. When you bottle it up and shove it down, it doesn’t disappear. It festers. Acting inauthentic carries costs of its own, in emotional pain and suffering. For me, when I had something to say and knew it wasn’t nice, I’d shove those words down with food. Or, I’d ensure I was isolated enough that I’d have no one to say them too. No matter how I tried, something would leak out of me at inappropriate times and in not nice ways. It was a horrible existence.
Brené Brown advises speaking truth to bullshit. Life changing advice, and the problem with that advice is that far too many people are way out of practice. I know I was.
Feeling the Power
Passionate disagreement isn’t venting or spraying your negative emotions where they don’t belong. Emotions are contagious, so don’t spread them on the innocent.
Everyone craves significance to some extent, and some people find it through the attack. Attacking is early stage behavior, somewhere after staying silent for the benefit of everyone else while you are dying inside, and somewhere before passionate disagreement. It’s the moment the potential hero realizes the raw power within him.
In movies, when the hero learns they have an awesome superpower, they also quickly realize they need to learn how to control it. They go somewhere safe, cause a good amount of destruction and then return with a new level of confidence and the mission to start to put it to work.
When it comes to passionate disagreement, people are aware their words have immense power, but where do they go to tame and hone it? If you’ve noticed, you can’t just hit a dislike button; you have to craft your argument.
Unleashing the Superpower
Passionate disagreement is a superpower. First, you recognize that no, this is not ok. That alone is massive!
As a woman, I’ve endured treatment, conditions, and people because I was taught it’s more important to fit in, to get along and to keep the peace. To be a nice girl.
In one such instance, I lost $3,000 to Pat Mussieux because I didn’t have the confidence or courage to ask for a refund within her window. The hilarious story was that I’d paid to learn and develop confidence and courage. In my experience, the sales tactics make you feel like you are a miserable loser. Then, as she starts to treat you with zero respect, and you start to remember you aren’t a miserable loser. Ah-ah! There are your confidence and courage; you had it all along.
Getting ripped off by her certainly got my passionate disagreement juices going, and my confidence and courage snapped back into place. The world is full of scam artists and slimy salespeople, and I’m sure you have your own experience. I will always be civil, but nice? Frankly, I probably never was.
The Reality of Peace
I had to hear Tony Robbins say “Fuck peace.” Thank you, Tony.
Tony made me realize that peace is not something you keep; it’s something you create. It’s what happens when you take your negative emotion and confront people with the results of their actions. Sometimes, they take accountability and make it up or make it right. But it also happens when you give people a chance to do that, and they decide to shirk and run. Remember, when they do that, it’s not a reflection on you – that’s all them.
Growth is great, and it doesn’t happen when we are all pretending everything is ok and avoiding negative emotions and the people who are feeling them. Take a stand, especially when you passionately disagree.
Liberating advice all of this was to me, as someone who places more value on independence and doing the right thing than fitting in and getting along. “Nice” to me has always been a rather useless word, and even worse as a goal.
I’ve often been the first person to stand up and declare passionate disagreement with the status quo. But when I’m done talking, I always discover there are people with me that I would never have expected. It stuns me how often doing the right thing means not going along with the status quo and how many others were suffering with their negative emotions too.
You’re Never Alone in Disagreement
As an instructor, I always tell my students that if you have a question, please ask it, because there’s likely someone else that has the same question.
When it makes logical sense to you, it might just actually be logical. How about that! If it pushes your emotional buttons, it might be doing the same to someone else. I want them to know they can say whatever it is they need to say.
Feedback to me is gold. No one can do anything with silence, but feedback, ok, now we have a place to start.
You Already Know You Disagree
When I passionately disagree with something, my body knows it. It’s pure, raw, energy. If I try to write in this state, my handwriting is unrecognizable. Typing in this state produces a staccato that scares my cat, and my words-per-minute go through the roof.
Maybe you were like me, trying to lose weight, but getting no where. I said no, and 15 pounds fell off! Maybe you are distracting yourself from the truth you know, or trying to ignore. It won’t work.
You can’t go from being all merry sunshine to leading a revolution overnight, so how do you start to hone your skills of passionate disagreement? Here are five ways I’ve tried and found safe pathways to unleash the power of negative emotion.
Five Ways to Unleash the Power of No
Yes, big, fat, powerful “NO”. This isn’t just about inviting too much in or protecting your boundaries. It’s about what you know is true, even while feeling all alone in your truth.
Not only can you journal to discover the bees in your bonnet, writers often complain of the problem of the blank page. Blank pages are the result of trying to fit in, and of keeping the peace. If you aren’t trying to cause change, then what is the point of your writing?
Writing should inspire, provoke, educate but it should not aim to leave the reader in the same condition. I know I am guilty of writing too many posts that aim to stay in safety zones, that adds little new to the conversation, but it’s through a lot of that writing that has helped prepare me for future conversations.
For me, this is running, swimming, and rowing. Some people call it exercise.
If you want to juice up your workout, bring out that pure, raw, energy. It’s a semi-safe place to practice because there’s a constructive outlet for that energy.
While you process mentally, you are also re-connecting your mind and body back together. If you’re anything like me, the process of faking compliance required separation between what you feel and what you do, and that’s a draining way to live.
I’m proud to say I’ve talked to many, many professionals over the years.
They aren’t the same, so find one with similar values and an approach that works for you. Think of it as a professional friend – they will actively listen, tell you the truths you need to hear, and give you the tools that are right for you.
In fact, it might be the first time in your life you feel what it’s like to have someone listen to you. It feels better than a massage, and it’s about the same investment of time and money, so please go experience it.
Above I mentioned that if you aren’t trying to cause change, what’s the point of your writing? To process, of course, that’s the whole idea of journals, drafts, and editing.
However, when it comes to learning what resides in your un/sub conscious, there isn’t always language for it. As a painter, I’ve completed many works that I had no idea where they were going or what they were about. But completed, there in front of me is a conceptual representation of something I didn’t realize was going on in my noggin. These to me are art therapy.
It’s not about the product; it’s about the process.
To passionately disagree, you have to know what do you disagree with. It’s not always helpful to know you are angry; we want to know why and what we should be doing instead.
You might need to learn more about the issues or the facts. You might need to breakthrough a limiting assumption, stereotype or belief.
Sometimes, I’ve realized I passionately disagree with myself, and the wars between me, myself and I are epic.
Windex for your Soul
Embracing the call to speak truth to bullshit has fundamentally altered my identity. I feel taller. I feel like I have permission to be authentic, which should have been a right of birth. However, from your first breath, you are like a piece of glass, and there’s no way you’ve made it here without at least a few smudges and smears, if not cracked, chipped or shattered. Someone told me this or I read this analogy somewhere, and it’s so apt for the ways relationships change us. Let passionate disagreement be the Windex for your soul. In my experience, it’s how the love gets in (and out).