What comes to mind when you think of emotions? Emotions at times can get a bad rap, for example, have you ever been told that you are “too emotional” when you have tried to express how you were feeling or when feeling sad, you’ve been told “you’ll be right”, and the list goes on. For the sake of understanding extremes, would it be fair to say on the one hand we have the downplaying of emotions? On the other hand, allowing emotions to be in the driver’s seat, making decisions without taking time to process the pros and cons. That in the long run, neither of these can truly serve us and until we understand emotions for what they are, we can never truly apricate their purpose and function.
As we unpack emotions in today’s episode, I encourage you to look at what meaning you, your family of origin or society has placed on emotions and whether they are serving you or not. Some may sound like: men don’t cry, I must be strong at all times or showing emotions is a sign of weakness and so on
Emotions are both physiological and psychological. The limbic structures of our brain are in charge of our emotions, memories, habits and attachments. Good therapy quotes “The limbic system acts as a control centre for conscious and unconscious functions, regulating much of what the body does. In some ways, it connects the mind to body, bridging the gap between psychological and physiological experiences. For example, by activating the fight or flight response, the limbic system triggers a physical response to emotional experiences such as fear.”
Fact #1 There are no right or wrong, good or bad emotions. Emotions provide us with cues about specific situations we find ourselves in and can get us ready to respond.
Fact #2 Ignoring emotions doesn’t make them go away; instead, they can have a damaging impact on our overall function and happiness. To feel preferred emotions such as happiness, you must feel all emotions.
Fact #3 Emotions are not a sign of weakness; instead, they are part of the human experience. When we acknowledge and express our emotions, we can take effective action, process them and move forward rather than staying stuck.
Fact #4 Emotions reflect our thoughts, and sometimes our thoughts can be irrational. It can be helpful to assess what emotions we are feeling and if our surroundings or facts match the intensity of the feeling. For example, if we are feeling anxious, it doesn’t always mean we are in danger.
Some signs that you are not processing your emotions and ways around this are:
- Punishing yourself when you feel a certain way can be counterproductive. Keeping check of your self-talk can be a good starting point and also showing yourself kindness. How would you treat someone you love who is having a similar experience as you are having?
- When you catch yourself pushing your emotions down, stop and examine what has triggered this feeling that you wish to avoid. You can expand your emotional vocabulary and name the feeling by doing this there a sense of acknowledgment.
- If you are continually distracting yourself from your emotional experience with activities such as work, practising mindfulness can bring awareness to your emotional state. Once you have identified what you are feeling express that feeling by writing it down or sharing it with someone that you trust.
- If you are numbing your emotions with, for example, alcohol, drugs find other outlets and activities that you can do if you are not ready to face your emotions yet. If you are feeling stuck, why not give counselling a go? Counselling is a great place to understand yourself better, learn new skills and apply them to your situation and experience.
On a finishing note, what is at least one thing that you can apply this week to enhance your emotional well-being?