Sublimation: Transform Negative Into Productive Instantly

    by Cory Alfers | Follow on Twitter

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We all get annoyed when things don’t go our way or life doesn’t seem to be working out the way we always wanted.  What should you do with that anger, stress, disgust, and disappointment?  What if there was a way to redirect these feelings – making them work for you, instead of against you?

Sublimation fuels positive productivity.

In chemistry, sublimation describes the conversion of a solid directly to a gas without passing through a liquid state (ie. think dry ice – ice evaporating without ever being water).  In life, sublimation psychology can be thought of as your negative energy (solid) being transformed directly into a positive, productive behavior (gas) without experiencing the anger, anxiety and stress.

Sublimation is the mechanism by which we convert unproductive, mentally uncomfortable, emotional states into positive results.  We are socially driven to find acceptable means through which we unleash the pent up energy created by situations stimulating negative emotions.  By sublimating, we convert the unproductive state into a productive behavior in order to stop the wheel of negativity from spinning.

Keeping a Positive Attitude through Negative Emotional States.

Are you in a constant struggle to brush the negativity out of your thoughts and life?  Some people try to avoid these emotional states because they are too uncomfortable.  Others act out instead, leading to negative consequences.

How do we keep our jar of negative emotions from overflowing?  How do we keep our past assaults from putting a negative influence on our futures?  How do we keep our attitude and outlook positive?  It may seem overwhelming, but there is a way to transform this negative energy to something positive…

Examples of Sublimation in action:

  • A person who has an strong need for control and order becomes a successful business entrepreneur.
  • A person with strong sexual urges becomes an artist.
  • A man may have a longing to be a banker but has not been able to achieve this goal. Instead of becoming frustrated and hostile towards other bankers, the person transforms this anger with bankers into building his own venture capital business and becoming incredibly successful.
  • A man who has extra-marital desires takes up household repairs when his wife is out of town.
  • A surgeon turns aggressive energies and deep desires to cut people into life-saving acts.
  • A student who has a major upcoming test, rather than spending time and energy worrying about it, rechannels that time and energy into studying.
  • A vengeful person who is accustomed to wasting time and energy on lashing out at others, rechannels those outlets towards expressions of art, music or poetry.
  • An overworked, stressed out employee turns to the gym for relief

Make a conscious effort to sublimate.

Can you relate to any of these examples?  In all of these examples, anger/negativity was transformed into something productive.

The mechanism serves to protect how we view ourselves.  We can continue to view ourselves in a positive light without having to face the true nature of our dichotomous inner being.

You make the choice to Sublimate

We always have a choice.  We can allow the negativity, anger, and depression of the world to control us or we can use that energy and channel it into productivity.  We are taught from an early age that we need to suppress any negative impulses.  However as adults, we can choose to recognize that impulse, engage sublimation, and allow that redirected anger, sadness, or distress onto a constructive path towards positive goals.

As we embrace the idea that sublimation will transform the negative impulses that we cannot deny, we can choose to assist in the process.  We can fortify our sublimating processes with behaviors conducive to redirecting those negative impulses.  We can direct conscious attention towards finding positive outlets.

Imagine the power of sublimation!  Imagine the sum of all negative emotion inside of you transformed to aid in the process of self improvement and productivity!  We can guide our energies into productive behaviors through which our negative impulses can have a direct route of escape.

How to Sublimate

Start by identifying the negative states that repeatedly make you uncomfortable – acknowledge and label them.  Become aware of them and confident in your ability to identify them.  Notice certain things in the environment that create these states.  Once you have mastered self awareness, choose a productive action, activity or outlet that you would like to allocate more energy toward.  Now, each time you experience negativity, redirect that emotion into productive energy.  You make the choice.

Sublimation Case Study

It is expected that Jane visits her sister Mary at least once a month.  The girls were raised to believe that keeping close ties is an important family value.  Mary has always been considered the “pretty” one and Jane has never “reached her potential”.   Jane leaves her sister’s every month convincing herself that it was a nice visit then stops on the corner to get ice-cream, even though she’s trying to lose weight.  She then feels remorse and chastises herself for going off her diet, saying she wishes she had the self-control of her pretty sister.

Jane is denying the emotional discomfort brought on by feeling inadequate in comparison to her sister.  She indulges her impulse to comfort herself with food rather than acknowledge that she does not like to visit.  She has a choice.  Jane can stop visiting her sister, which may not seem like a real option, or she may choose to recognize the discomfort she feels and use it to propel her towards her diet goals.

By labeling and embracing the negative feelings of inadequacy, Jane can take the conscious steps needed to allow the energy to fortify her resolve.  She can choose to allow that feeling of inadequacy to energize her in the gym, if she just schedules a workout after the visit.

If you recognize the states we have been taught to deny, and spell out goals in a concrete way, you can engage the whole of yourself in reaching them.  So go ahead, sublimate.  Reach goals faster, more energized, and with an empty jar of unexpressed negative emotions left over.


Photo Credit: Dan White 2010

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