Written by therapist Hadassah Carlson
Do you like having emotions? Or do emotions feel like an added burden? Maybe you feel like emotions are an unnecessary complication to life, or that your emotions can’t be trusted. Many of us find feeling our emotions, as well as navigating what to do with our emotions, to be challenging. However, emotions give us important data about our lives. When we work with our emotions instead of fighting against them, it can lead to a richer and clearer life.
Emotions Are Neither Good or Bad, They Just Are
If you’re like me, you enjoy having, “positive emotions.” These emotions are often known as joy, gratitude, hope, happiness, and optimism (just to name a few). While we want to experience the, “positive emotions,” we may try to avoid the, “negative emotions.” “Negative emotions” are typically seen as sadness, anger, anxiety, and frustration. Research tells us that to the degree that we are able to feel these, “negative emotions,” that is how much we’ll be able to feel the, “positive emotions.” When we try to shut down one side of our emotions, then we’re inadvertently shutting down all of our emotions.
In the counseling field, we view emotions as neither good nor bad, they just are. Our emotions are data points that can help bring clarity if we allow ourselves to be comfortable with feeling them.
Emotions Motivate and Focus Us for Action
Have you noticed that when you feel inspired, you’re more likely to take action? That inspiration is an emotional motivation to move toward something. Strong emotions can help us push through barriers and obstacles in ourselves and our environment.
Emotions influence our behavior. It’s important to pay attention to what we’ve feeling so we can know how our actions are being shaped by our emotions. If you’ve found yourself reaching for a snack when you’re bored or lonely, that’s an example of how the emotion of being bored or lonely is influencing the action of getting a snack.
While that’s a small scale example, emotions are also important when we don’t have time to think things through. Emotions can help us focus on what’s important to us in the moment and move us to action.
Emotions Help us Communicate to Ourselves
Emotions are important because they help us understand ourselves. They help inform us of what we value. When we have an emotional reaction, it gives us valuable insight about the situation. Emotions can also be a signal or alarm if something is wrong. We should pay attention to our intuition or, “gut feelings,” because it can help us check the facts of a situation.
For example, having anxiety will tell you that there’s something to pay attention to. While you don’t want to be overwhelmed by anxiety, you don’t want to lose your ability to feel anxiety. A healthy amount of anxiety can keep you safe.
However, if you assume your emotions are facts about the world, you may use them to justify your thoughts and actions. That’s why I say that emotions are important data points. You should be aware of your emotions and understand how they are influencing you, so you can separate emotions from facts.
Emotions Help Us Communicate to Others
Facial expression, voice tone, and body language are connected to emotions. Research has found that between 70-93% of all communication is non-verbal. Facial expressions communicate faster than words. All of these ways communicate your emotions to others. Especially if you have something important to say or need to send a message to others, it’s hard to control or change your emotions.
Even if you don’t mean to, the communication of your emotions can influence others. It’s important to understand your emotions for yourself so your expression of emotions to others can be clear and helpful too.
Myths About Emotions
A common myth about emotions is that emotions are bad or weak, and this can lead to an avoidance of emotion. Feeling your emotions is a vulnerable and tough thing to do, but it is a sign of strength and courage.
Another myth is that being emotional means being out of control. But when you allow yourself to acknowledge your emotion and you practice emotional regulation, you can have emotions and stay in control of your emotions.
A third myth is that emotions can happen for no reason. This is not true. Emotions are always connected to something, though you may not be aware of what that is right away. It may take time and self-reflection to understand your emotions and where they came from, the same way you take time to understand your thoughts.
I think both our thoughts and emotions are important, but I’ve seen more people afraid of their emotions. I used to feel that way, which is why I care so much about helping others feel and regulate their emotions.
If you feel like you want to grow in feeling and understanding your emotions, or maybe you want help balancing your emotions with your logical thoughts I would encourage you to reach out to our office today! Therapy is a safe place to learn and practice these skills.