I have read that baby elephants in captivity are chained by one leg to a post. They try hard to free themselves but are unable. After awhile they give up. When they grow up, they believe they still can't free themselves, even though they have the strength to break free at any time. If the story is true, humans are a lot like that. A good many of our ideas about ourselves were created when we were small, powerless, and defenseless. We still carry those identities within us. They activate automatically in the face of challenges. For example, if we think someone doesn't want us, the identity "I'm not good enough" or "I'm not lovable" activates. The emotional charge may be one of shame, embarrassment, or woundedness. Whenever we feel negative emotion, it is because something in us is being activated. We can break free of these negative identities and emotions.

The mistake most of us make is thinking our emotion is caused by something or someone outside of us. We live life from the inside out. Other people whose behaviors activate negativity within us are our teachers. They help us to understand what needs to be healed. This is not an excuse for hurtful behavior. We cannot change what someone else has done or continues to do. We can ask for change. We can express ourselves to others. We can set firm boundaries. Even if they are willing to change for us, to make the relationship better, the negative identity that was activated still lives within us.

We are the creators of own experience, and negative emotion doesn't have to rule us. Emotion is energy in motion. When we feel negative emotion, we can step back and observe ourselves. This usually happens later, as often it is difficult to do this when we are engaged in a conflict or drama. The way to diffuse the negative emotion is to let yourself feel it. Feel it. Become it, but don't feed it with analysis and thought. By allowing yourself to feel it, you process it. The hard part is opening yourself to feel something unpleasant. Yet, if you let yourself experience it without judging it, it will play out.

For example let's say a challenge is in your life and you feel overwhelmed. The identity "I can't do this" is activated. You feel fearful and powerless. Become fully immersed in "I can't do this." Experience that. If you feel it without judging or analyzing, but simply experience it, the emotion will begin to fade. As it fades, imagine that you can do it. What would that feel like? Let yourself feel the confidence of that. If it helps, remember a time when you did meet a big challenge and succeed. Fully experience "I can do it."

If more negative shows up, go back to the negative and let it play out. Again return to the positive. You will find you have a great deal of control over your emotional state. You can't stop a negative from showing up, but you can work with it and let it move through you. You can generate positive emotion by imagining yourself succeeding. The key is in not repressing the negative. Repression makes it stronger.

This is one technique for facing your fears and becoming a real adult. As long as our powerless identities acquired in childhood dictate what we can and can't do, we prevent ourselves from becoming powerful. We need not be chained to ancient fears. We have the power and we can use it -- either to make ourselves powerless, or to become the powerful beings we are meant to be.

Author's Bio: 

William Frank Diedrich is a speaker, executive coach, and the author of four books, including Adults at Work: How Individuals and Organizations Can Grow Up. Bill offers inspiring, interactive workshops including "For Adults Only: Creating a Workplace Where Everyone Functions As An Adult"; "Diversity and Influence", and "Moving Beyond Blaming." Learn more about Bill's work and his books at http://adults-at-work.com