Zia Hassan

Positive And Negative Emotions

In teacher training, a group of us were asked to create a bunch of drawings, each with a different face and on a different sheet of paper, and each one representing a different emotion.

After collectively brainstorming about a hundred of emotions on the sheets, we were asked to sort them.

“Sort them?” we asked. “By what criteria?”

“Just sort them,” our instructors said.

So we decided to sort them by negative to positive emotions. Emotions like sad, depressed, and anxious went on the left hand side, while emotions like exuberant, joyful, and elated went to the right.

When we were done (after about 30 minutes of working), we stepped back and looked at our arrangement. The room was silent for a few minutes, and then someone said…

“I don’t know. Can emotions be positive or negative?”

A discussion ensued. On one hand, an emotion can be seen as someone’s body and mind giving them feedback. Information. On the other hand, no one says they’re going away to the mountains for a weekend to cultivate anger. Perhaps some of the emotions we described as negative were really just undesirable, but even that word doesn’t seem toe be accurate. After all, we can’t know joy without sadness. Why would we desire sadness any less than joy?

Perhaps a better word for those emotions we’d rather not have is “uncomfortable.” Still necessary, still desirable in order to balance and provide perspective, but uncomfortable nonetheless.

In the end, we re-arranged our emotions in alphabetical order. It was the only solution that made the most sense to us as a group.