Rochelle Abeywardena
4 min readMar 21, 2021


Why negative emotions are positive for you?

My happiest times have been my four years at University. I don’t recall going through anything painful or disappointing. My university days were breezy, carefree, blissful and they flew by with ease. I love studying, so exams or assignments never felt stressful, in fact I liked the anxiety that came with assignment deadlines. For the nerd that I am, the beauty of ‘uni life’ included all that. Although I lived in a foreign country on my own, away from my family, I felt at home. I was surrounded by an amazing group of friends. I had a part-time job and enough money to take care of myself. I loved living in the heart of London. I was studying a degree that I thoroughly enjoyed. My university was scenic and pretty, surrounded by trees and ponds. Walking in the midst of a mini forest, to reach the lecture hall every day was an adventure in itself.

Fast forward a year later, my visa expired. I had no choice but to come back to a place that I really didn’t want to. I didn’t envision myself living in Sri Lanka. All the plans and dreams I had for my life in London were shattered in a second. The thought of completely leaving a life I was so comfortable with and loved, felt excruciating and painful. I was back at square one, left to start all over again. I was confused and heartbroken. For the first time in my life, I was going through waves of negative emotions that didn’t seem to stop.

A year later, I met someone who gave me a piece of advice that changed the course of my inner world. ‘It’s good to go through pain, pain leads to pleasure’. This was the first time I head something counter-intuitive to what I have read or heard all this time.

Since then I have made a conscious effort to give meaning to pain, in whatever form they come in and eventually embrace it as an important part and parcel of life.

Of course negative emotions are difficult and messy. Pain is inevitable, regardless of one’s age, gender, religion, income or social status. Our meritocratic societies are hell-bent on deeming negative emotions as something we shouldn’t dwell on if we want to ‘succeed’.

Our relentless pursuit for happiness can be toxic. False positivity can deprive us of the full emotional spectrum that is part of the human experience. Embracing false positivity means our capacity to deal with the world as it is, is weak.

The way we drive our inner world is everything, it reflects what we experience on the outside. Navigating pain and discomfort is what gives us character, resilience and strength. The most interesting people I have met and had deep conversations with are people who have gone and grown through pain.

When we acknowledge the pain inside us, we become more compassionate to other people who are also experiencing pain. Our ability to empathize with another grows.

Pain as a pathway to pleasure

Our ability to experience and accept contrasts in life is essential to living a fuller, juicy and an emotionally healthy life. Only then can we deeply appreciate authentic pleasure. Like pleasure, pain must be respected. Radical acceptance of all our difficult messy emotions is the pathway to authentic happiness.

According to research psychologist Brock Bastian, a willingness to experience pain is crucial to our pursuit of genuine happiness, and our efforts to escape unpleasantness or seek out only the positive in fact weakens us in managing life’s inevitable difficulties.

Pain, discomfort and messy emotions are difficult to deal with no doubt, but they only have to be accepted and respected, not necessarily understood. Too often we can’t give a reason as to why we go through painful experiences. Pain is inevitable no matter how perfectly we try to curate our lives.

Avoiding pain makes us psychologically weaker. Pain brings us to the present moment; we become more alert and attuned to our innermost feelings and as well as our external environment.

Pain is rewarding

When we look back to appreciate our own journeys, often what makes it rewarding is the pain that we overcame. Pain tends to make us feel more justified in rewarding ourselves with pleasant experiences — just think how many people indulge in a little craving after a trip to the gym.

Pain will eventually stop, and you will find that you’ve given birth to a wiser, more compassionate version of yourself

Pain is a map

Pain, disappointment, discomfort are data and important sources of information that indicates something in our life should change. It points us towards our closely held values and puts us in the direction of taking action so that we change and improve our situation. Pain is fuel to the fire, leading us towards what we truly desire for ourselves with more drive and motivation. Pain not only helps us to survive, but also thrive.



Rochelle Abeywardena

Poetry. Writer. ‘We are all stumblers, and the beauty and meaning of life are in the stumbling’