“Think positive.” Wow. Did you read the latest and greatest motivational, inspirational quote of the day? Imagine the finest, foremost, and first-rate scenario in your mind, and it shall come to pass. Believe it or not, positive thinking can even boost your memory. Y’all know I’m the kind of person who keeps things in a safe place – then forgets the safe place. My mantra is: “I came. I saw. I forgot what I was doing.” But truthfully, a positive outlook reduces anxiety, and even promotes physical health.

Indeed, some studies show that optimists do actually live longer. But must you be upbeat and rose-colored all of the time? Can denying painful realities or feelings ultimately undermine you? You are entitled to your full emotional life, my friends. The good, the bad, and the ugly. No one can tell you which feelings are improper or unacceptable for you to have, as long as you do not act on them.

It is perfectly normal to be anxious, fearful, and even angry at times. Sometimes you actually need to be. The magic trick is how to make use of those feelings in the right way. Start by welcoming all of your emotions. I know you do not wish to embrace anger and rage. But imagine if you never got outraged at anything. How would you ever change yourself or effect change in the world? Getting mad mobilizes us into action.

Anger can indeed be dangerous or threatening at times. That is why nervous tension always needs to be informed by self-understanding and awareness. Repressing those dark feelings can unconsciously trigger destructive behavior, culminating in devastating results.

Instead of denying your resentment, displeasure, or disappointment, try connecting and getting to know that feeling. Where is it coming from, and how can I actually use it to improve myself or my situation? What needs of mine are not being met? Do not run away from the negative emotion. Use it. And no, running from your responsibilities does not count as cardio. You know what they say: Marathon runners suffer the agony of ‘de feet.’ How do you know if someone ran a marathon? Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.

But truly, you can use your anger to try to implement changes in policy or even things you may find distressing or disturbing about society or your culture. Negative emotions are not pleasing, but they are priceless, if we apply them properly.

The same kind of ideas tend to attract each other. If you think optimistic thoughts, your brain will connect to other uplifting thoughts. Lord knows, some of us overthink and can go from analysis to paralysis. But despite that, we cannot expect to be content and cheery all of the time. We will all face challenges and, dare I say, suffering, as well.

“It’s just a feeling. No big deal,” they say. Make no mistake, sweet friends: Emotional pain activates the same part of your brain as when you feel physical pain. The only way to cope with suffering, heartache, or heartbreak, my friends, is to try to learn something from it. Accepting our afflictions and anguish is not an easy feat. Yet, sometimes we find understandings and insights that we may have never gotten otherwise.

Even jealousy can teach you what you really want or crave. Instead of constantly comparing and measuring yourself against her, try modeling yourself after the person who seems to have what you want. Allow others to be your teacher. If you are crippled by envy, know that he has his share of struggles, burdens, and uphill battles that you may know nothing about.

Uncomfortable emotions can be tremendous teachers. Please take the time to see what it may be trying to enlighten or illuminate you about. Of course, optimism needs to be acted upon to make any difference in our lives. The optimist says the glass is half full.  The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by morning. Sheesh.

But honestly, without taking any action, all the positive thinking in the world will uncover no solutions or open any closed doors. But if you permeate your actions with positivity, it will give your goals power and productiveness. So, follow through with your goals even if you’re not looking through those rose-colored spectacles at the moment.

Feelings tend to rise and fall and run their course. But we can always choose to take action, react, and respond. See what needs to get done in your life and make a roadmap to realistically get there. Oh, and don’t worry: If you’re not lost, you’re not much of an explorer.

Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at facebook.com/pages/Safe-Haven-Healing.