I’m sure you will agree, that our feelings & emotions are usually considered a taboo subject for most.
One of my beloved male friends, cringes each time the words feelings and emotions are mentioned, particularly, as it relates to the women in his life, who he considers to be always ‘in their feelings’.
For many of us, just like my friend, I believe, we have developed a grave misunderstanding about our feelings and emotions. For a vast majority, emotions, especially, the so called ‘negative’ ones are viewed with contempt.
Currently, as a society, we generally view our naturally occurring, very important emotions and feelings as a ‘woman thing’ and go as far as ridiculing and derogatorily labeling men who appear to be in touch with their emotions.
We are all familiar with the following responses: ‘Big men don’t cry.’ ‘You are too emotional.’ ‘Keep it together’. ‘He is in his feelings’.
These misconceptions of the valuable gifts of our emotions, have caused us to be deprived of benefiting from one of the most high-tech, state of the art, inner navigation system, we have access to.
As someone who was once a slave to depression for a large part of my life, my emotions were usually viewed as the chief culprit. I battled constantly with bouts of intense sadness, fear and anxiety, often feeling controlled by my emotions.
Over the past few years, however, especially within the past few months, I have had the immense privilege of studying the phenomenon of our feelings and emotions and applying its value to my life.
During this time, I have learnt how to use my emotions to better serve me in understanding myself and navigating my life and would like to help you to do the same.
What exactly is an emotion? According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, an emotion is a complex experience of consciousness, bodily sensation, and behavior that reflects the personal significance of a thing, an event, or a state of affairs.
Essentially, our emotions are the chemical equivalent of a thought. Based on our perception of our experiences, a thought is formed, followed by an emotion, which is felt in the body.
Emotions generally fall into two broad categories: pleasant emotions such as love, joy, gratitude, cheerfulness and confidence and unpleasant emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, envy and disdain.
I believe I can speak on everyone’s behalf, when I say that, we are all accepting of our pleasant emotions for the obvious reason that it makes us feel good. However, we struggle immensely when we feel subjected to the unpleasant ones. This causes us to either deny, avoid or repress the unpleasant emotions, in an attempt to prevent ourselves from feeling lowly and out of control.
This approach to dealing with our unpleasant emotions neither helps nor benefits us, as evidenced by our emotional rollercoasters, outbursts and depressed states. As psychologist Carl Jung once said, “What you resist not only persists but will grow in size.”
It is said that humans experience approximately 70,000-80,000 thoughts per day. The first time I read this statistic I was blown away by the number of thoughts we have in a mere 24 hours. I’m sure you will agree; we are mostly unaware of many of our thoughts. However, what we are always aware of is, how we feel in any given moment.
Our emotions, therefore, are indicators of our thoughts and our thoughts are determined by our perceptions and beliefs, which ultimately govern our lives.
In Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, he shares the importance of thoughts as it relates to the quality of our lives. He advised that the power to change our lives depended on the quality of our thoughts.
Personally, I agree with Dr. Dyer’s advice and guidance. However, for a vast majority, most of our thoughts and beliefs are unconscious, which then becomes an obstacle to effecting the change we desire in our lives.
“Some experts consider the unconscious mind to represent as much as 90 to 95% of our total mindpower, which means that most people have little or no idea why they feel the way they do and do the things they do.” – Phillip & Jane Mountrose.
I believe this to be a scary statistic, but I’ve experienced it first-hand both in myself and with my clients.
The truth is, most of us are unaware of why we feel the way we feel and why we do the things we do. This is largely as a result of old programs, stored in our sub-conscious or unconscious mind, since we were children.
During our formative years, we adopted the beliefs and ideas of the adults in our lives, about who we are and how life should be. Our sub-conscious mind subsequently absorbed these programs, which then became the framework for how we experienced life, as adults.
This therefore suggests that if we are to change our lives, becoming aware of the thoughts that currently dictate the way we feel and act, is of critical importance. This is where the gift of our emotions become one of our most invaluable assets.
As mentioned earlier, we are almost always aware of how we feel in any moment, as such, our emotions play a vital role in helping us to understand the contents of the subconscious mind, once we learn how to tune into it.
A few months ago, I was waiting on a friend to pick me up, however, she was running late. Immediately, I began to feel the usual annoyance I would feel when someone is late. That day however, instead of ignoring how I felt, I decided to elicit my knowledge of emotions and use what I was feeling, to help me to see the contents of my sub-conscious mind.
I allowed myself to do some self-inquiring, pondering the times before, when I felt the same annoyance I was feeling. My questioning led me all the way back to my childhood, when I was in high school and my father frequently omitted to pick me up from school. I spent late evenings and sometimes nights waiting on my dad, which caused me to feel the same frustration I was feeling at that time.
Because of that childhood experience, I created a belief and associated emotions about waiting on others, which was absorbed by my sub-conscious, and ultimately determined how I experienced similar experiences.
Once I became aware of my belief around waiting on others, I was then able to change my thoughts around it, which inevitably changed my life.
Unfortunately, in our Western society, because we fail to understand the purpose of our emotions, we have villainized them to the extent that most people are either afraid of allowing their emotions to be felt, or ignore them all together, as something to not even be considered.
I believe that this has been to our demise, causing mental, emotional and physical ailments, which have ultimately retarded our ability to function effectively and optimally. I also believe that our emotional ignorance is one of the major reasons why we have been unable to maintain our personal sovereignty and foster healthy relationships.
Getting in tune with your emotions, is a game changing approach to being more aware of yourself, taking charge of your life and inevitably navigating your relationships.
One of the ways I choose to see unpleasant emotions is like a warning light. Similar to an engine light on the dashboard of a car, which only comes on when there is something requiring attention in the engine, our unpleasant emotions are usually only triggered when a belief or thought needs attention.
Once we learn how to be more self-aware by allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and then using it, to change our thoughts, our experiences will inevitably change as well. However, just like the engine light on the dashboard, if we ignore it and leave it unattended, we run the risk of causing damage to the entire engine.
A powerful question I habitually ask myself and encourage my clients to do the same, when they are experiencing a pattern of unpleasant emotions is, “What is this feeling or emotion trying to show me.” This question helps to stimulate and activate the sub-conscious mind to provide you with the answer you are seeking.
I believe, self-awareness is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and ultimately to others. Tuning into and using your emotions to help you to become more mindful is a fantastic first step in self-mastery.
Imagine for a minute, having an unpleasant emotion, such as frustration, sadness or anger and not feeling like your mood and entire day is ruined by it. Instead of being controlled by the emotion, you master the ability to use it to your benefit and advantage.
Emotional intelligence takes time and attention to develop, however, as with everything else, it is possible with your dedication and commitment to yourself.