For most of my life, I have been fascinated by the role that emotions play in our everyday lives and the way that our emotions are often classed as something to avoid, suppress or overcome.
As a sensitive soul, statements such as;
don’t let your emotions get the better of you,
you must learn to control your emotions
don’t let your emotions get in the way.
make sure your emotions don’t cloud your judgement.
don’t allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence…
were confusing to me and left me feeling as though I must be doing something wrong when it came to the way I experienced interactions with others and how I interpreted situations. For me, emotions have always been noticeably present and so when framed as a potential enemy or sign of weakness, I concluded that I’d better sort out all this emotional stuff before I became disadvantaged.
However, what I discovered was that avoiding, suppressing or working to overcome my emotions didn’t actually help. All it did was prevent me from understanding what was really happening within me and blocked my ability to notice when I was steering away from my values and what was most important to me. I had lost a part of myself that connected me to my truth, to who I really was and it affected my work, my relationships and my sense of self-worth.
“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” Roger Ebert.
Thankfully, more and more research is confirming the significance of emotions in our decision making and our ability to deal with situations. And this is a good thing, as it helps us to realise that we can learn to work with our emotions, to support us to communicate more effectively, to develop our awareness and to feel more attuned to our true selves.
We experience emotions for a reason – as humans we are both rational and emotional beings, we all have emotions, so why not open ourselves up to learning more about them?
I believe that the answer to this question lies in how we perceive and interpret feelings of uncertainty and discomfort. We think that we are supposed to be consistent, level and on a constant even keel as we move through life and that if we experience a contradiction or start to question things, or feel out of sorts, then we must be doing something wrong and so we try to ignore those feelings. However, in order to be a whole person – a thinking, feeling, fully experiencing being, we need to be able to access our emotions. To apply curiosity to our emotions instead of pushing them away, burying them deep down or reacting from them.
Building up our emotional wealth can help us do this. Being emotionally wealthy is about acknowledging that as humans we are abundant in emotions – we have them in plentiful supply! What we don’t necessarily have is a manual for what they mean and how to work with them in a way that is supportive and enables and empowers us. Indeed, one of our key challenges as emotional beings is how to deal with emotions in ‘real time’ as they are happening. Accepting emotions is all very well, but what if they crop up at an inconvenient time? What do we do then? How do we respond, rather than react? This is where opening ourselves up to learning comes in.
Through noticing and reflection, we can start to unpack what’s happening within us when we experience particular emotions and we can put things in place to practice working with them, so that when they do crop up – even when inconvenient, we can automatically apply curiosity. And curiosity is all about enquiring and asking questions; for example, what is this telling me? Is this something I need to listen to right now? Do I need to remove myself from this situation? What’s the best response I can give here that supports me and any others involved? Through curiosity, we can start to dig in to the emotion and use it to extract what we need from it both ‘in the moment’ and as a way to reflect afterwards, without beating ourselves up about what we should and shouldn’t have said or done.
For me, learning that emotions are part of who I am and that they are something to be welcomed, has been an empowering realisation. However, this isn’t necessarily about having a huge epiphany or suddenly changing everything I believe and do – it’s actually a process. A process through which I am continuously learning, by noticing and developing my curiosity. It’s not always easy, yet I am beginning to understand and appreciate the true value of it, as I start to respond more kindly to myself (and others) when things start to get a little emotional. I am slowly becoming more secure in my feelings and the need to resist and push them away is less noticeable these days. I am also less inclined to view my emotions as unnecessary or inconvenient; instead, I make room for them and aim to listen with patience, without needing to jump straight into knowing what it all means and deciding there and then what I will do about it. Far from ‘getting in the way’ or ‘clouding my judgement’, I see my emotions as that valuable data source, from which I can enhance my intelligence, build my confidence and be how I want and need to be.
If the themes shared here resonate for you and you’d like to learn more about accepting and working with your emotions, then our Emotional Wealth programme may be for you. Bookings are now open for our next course, starting October 18th. Find out more here.