7 Things We Don’t Learn About Emotions

Even though I have a Masters degree in Psychology, I never really studied emotions until recently, nor knew how to work with them in a way that worked FOR me rather than AGAINST me.Through both Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Karla McLaren’s work, I discovered a whole world inside of me, where turning towards emotions rather than trying to numb them or allow them to take over and explode all over the place, was possible.
The most exciting part of this different way of relating to emotions is how much more alive I feel, because emotions are meant to be felt (but not dwelled on endlessly), and also how much better I understand what I want and need. Emotions are like messengers, each with something specific to tell us, and learning to understand their language is truly life-changing.Here is a summary of seven things we don’t learn about emotions:

1. EMOTIONS SHOW UP IN THE BODY FIRST

Every emotion first shows up in the body as a physical change which is then interpreted as a ‘feeling’. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio calls emotions “mental experiences of body states”.

If you don’t have a body, you can’t have emotions (sorry, robots!).

If you have a body, you can’t not have emotions.

2. THE WORD ‘EMOTION’ COMES FROM THE LATIN ‘MOVERE’ – TO MOVE

Emotions are like signposts with a message about an action they want us to take. They are essential to survival, making decisions, learning – and pretty much everything in life.

Every emotion has a purpose, they don’t just show up randomly. For example, anger tells us our boundaries have been crossed and need to be repaired. Sadness tells us something is not working and needs to be released.

3. WE CAN TRY NOT FEELING CERTAIN ‘DIFFICULT’ EMOTIONS…

…but the cost of doing this is high because we cannot selectively numb emotions. When we try to numb uncomfortable emotions like anger or sadness, we end up numbing all emotions, including joy and happiness.

And we end up in a life that feels flat.

(and often seek stimulation through things like adrenaline activities or drugs or alcohol or sugar in an effort to feel alive)

4. SUPPRESSING EMOTIONS ALWAYS BACKFIRES…

…and then we go from numb to explosive. Which isn’t much fun. And has a high cost on our social relationships. And also takes a lot of energy out of us.

5. EMOTIONS ARE NOT OUR ENEMY

They are a part of us. And how can we ever win when we fight a part of ourselves?

Learning to listen to and feel emotions allows them to pass through more easily, instead of getting stuck and festering.

6. EMOTIONS ARE NOT OUR BOSS, EITHER

Yet just because we listening to them and allowing them to flow through instead of trying to numb or suppress them doesn’t mean they are our boss.

Learning to live with emotions means creating a pause between emotions showing up and choosing whether or not to take action.

7. THERE ARE NO ‘GOOD’ OR ‘BAD’ EMOTIONS

As humans, we are meant to experience the full spectrum of emotions – they all serve a purpose and can help us navigate life.

We are not meant to live in a constant state of happiness or bliss – to never feel anger or sadness. Not only is this not possible, our attempts at chasing happiness tend to make us more miserable than allowing ourselves to be human and experience ‘emodiversity’ or emotional diversity which has been linked to greater psychological health.

To be alive means to experience the full range of human emotions. Living with emotions in a way that is healthy means using them as valuable information for navigating life.

If you would like to find out more, join me on Tuesday 30 August in Geneva!

Emotions

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2 Comments

  • Nesrin on Apr 11, 2016 Reply

    Thank you Hiba for this wonderful insight and summary on emotions. Much to learn and what a great teacher on them you are!

    • Hiba on Apr 18, 2016 Reply

      Thank you Nesrin!

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