An angry man feeling low-frequency emotions throwing a cup in the kitchen.

What are low-frequency emotions? How can you use negative emotions for good?

David R. Hawkins states that low-frequency emotions attract negative experiences and hinder personal growth and success. Three of the most common negative emotions are grief, fear, and anger.

Discover more about these three low-frequency emotions and how to healthily manage them.

1. Grief 

Hawkins argues that grief arises when you believe that you need something external to complete you, and then you lose that thing. You might typically associate this low-frequency emotion with losing people, but it could also come from losing a relationship, a worldview, or a dream you have for yourself. When you place a lot of importance on external attachments, every loss you experience feels like losing a part of yourself

(Shortform note: To identify unprocessed grief, consider whether you’ve experienced unexplained sadness or irritability recently. Have you felt depressed and unmotivated? These are ways hidden grief can manifest. If you haven’t recently lost someone or something tangible that you care about, think about whether anything you hoped would happen failed to happen. For example, maybe you hoped your health would be better by this point in your life, and you’re grieving what your life could look like if it were.)

You may be tempted to bury your grief or ignore it because it feels overwhelming. Instead of protecting you, however, your unwillingness to accept the feeling keeps you in a state of grief. Staying in this state leads to hopelessness and regret. 

(Shortform note: If you’re struggling to deal with grief and loss on your own, you may benefit from grief counseling. This involves working with a licensed therapist to progress through the stages of the grieving process and the complex emotions surrounding grief. You can choose one-on-one or group counseling.)

To release grief and move into a state of acceptance, you must allow yourself to grieve fully. Recognize that you’re capable of handling the feeling and that you can love and care for people and things without attaching them to your sense of self. 

(Shortform note: In Bittersweet, Susan Cain offers a counterpoint to Hawkins’s idea that grief must be released, arguing that you don’t have to let go of your grief to take positive steps forward after a loss. Grief is just love in a different form, so it stays with you as long as you still love the people who are gone. You can find new connections and happiness while carrying the pain of loss. The grief you carry means you feel a constant, bittersweet awareness of impermanence, where joy and love are always intertwined with sadness. This awareness of impermanence gives everything in your life more meaning.)

2. Fear

According to Hawkins, another emotion with a low frequency is fear. Because fear has been connected with survival throughout our evolution, it’s highly pervasive, and it manifests in many different ways. 

Some fears seem small and insignificant, while others can prevent you from living the kind of life you want to. For example, a fear of spiders likely won’t affect you often, but a fear of leaving the house will prevent you from connecting with others and being adventurous. 

As we touched on before, fear is also problematic because its energy draws in the things you’re afraid of—if you believe something is going to happen, it often does. Once the thing you’re afraid of comes to pass, it acts as evidence of the fear, keeping the cycle of fear going. For example, let’s say you’re afraid to be vulnerable with others because you think that they’ll abandon you if you show the messier sides of yourself. Because you won’t show any vulnerability, people do often give up on getting to know you, and you feel more alone. Though your fear is actually what’s driving this loneliness, you take others pulling away from you as confirmation that the feeling is valid. 

To free yourself from fear, Hawkins says to start by recognizing that you don’t need to be afraid of being afraid. As with any other negative emotion, you must learn to sit with fear if you are to release it. Recognize that it’s not protecting you, but rather holding you back. You can also shift your mindset by making decisions out of love instead of fear. For example, don’t eat a strict diet just because you’re afraid of developing a disease later on in life. Instead, choose to eat nourishing food that makes you feel good because you love yourself, and you deserve to be well taken care of.

3. Anger

Hawkins argues that anger can be useful, though it’s still an ultimately destructive emotion. You might bury your anger because you feel guilty or think it’s undesirable. However, keeping anger inside leads to long-term health problems and harms relationships. Even if you don’t express your anger, it draws negative energy toward you.

(Shortform note: Anger that you’ve buried can manifest in unexpected ways. You may not recognize it until you lash out, causing problems in your relationships. Signs you might have repressed anger include difficulties with confrontation and boundary-setting, using sarcasm and passive aggression, self-isolating when you’re upset, feeling resentful of others, and engaging in frequent negative self-talk. These harmful patterns of communication can make it hard for you to get close to people and often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Effects on your physical health may include insomnia, high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues, and chronic stress.)

Anger isn’t all bad, though—it can energize you and propel you to action, and you can direct that energy toward a good purpose. Instead of subduing your anger or unleashing it on the people around you, use it as motivation to improve your situation or yourself. For example, say you hold a lot of anger against your parents for the ways they treated you as a child. Instead of holding that anger inside or lashing out and damaging your current relationships, use it as motivation to go to therapy and learn to treat others better than your parents do. 

(Shortform note: In addition to its broad usefulness as a motivational tool for improving your circumstances, anger can give you short-term energy. Some studies indicate that anger prompts your body to produce norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter involved in the fight-or-flight response. This prepares your muscles, lungs, and heart for action, giving you a boost of energy. You can channel this body response productively to complete physical tasks like cleaning your house or exercising.)

3 Common Low-Frequency Emotions & How to Deal With Them

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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