Have you had a hard time expressing your emotions? You are not the only one…
It is a matter of fact that we don’t really learn to speak about our emotions (EVER). Emotional life is marginalised as we are devoted to the practicalities of everyday life. And people seem to like us better when happy and promote the “happiness stance”.
- “Oh, no need to worry!”
- “Don’t be angry.”
- “Why are you so upset?”
- “I don’t understand where all this is coming from…”
The assumption here is that emotions don’t play a part in doing things and being effective. And that it is not safe to talk about them. But are these assumptions true?
The consequence of labelling emotions
As we have co-created our western culture at least, it seems that some emotions are positive and others are negative. So it is OK to be happy. But is it OK to be sad or angry? Or feel lonely?
By labelling our experience good or bad, we marginalise certain experiences. Complex cognitive processes show an intelligent human being. The complexity of emotions points to a neurotic human being. Hhmmm… That seems a bit unfair – doesn’t it?
What we mostly do to survive this divide is cutting ourselves from our emotions. Or we play them down and hide them from others (or even ourselves). And most of the times we fail to notice that emotions are there longing to be seen. So, this leaves us highly unskilled or emotionally unintelligent if you like. We lack the tools we need to handle and process our own emotions and bring them into our relationships.
My personal view on emotions
Emotions are internal processes. They are signposts as to what is happening to the environment. They have a rational basis and are signposts for certain events.
- I might feel angry if someone is not respecting my expectations around boundaries
- I might feel sad if my expectations end down the drain
- I might feel happy if I get acknowledgement and positivity from my environment
- I might feel anxious or fearful if I start thinking about the future and how I will be able to make ends meet.
The common thread here is that the environment plays a significant part in my emotions. It is a tool that I can utilise to understand what is happening around me better. And this is a tool I can start using to discover myself and how I react to certain stimuli from the environment as well. Emotions are relational signposts.
Emotions and vulnerability
As emotions are not discussed openly in our current (at least western) societies, it has become a bit of a grey area to do that. And as such, it might be tricky or risky to actually let them out. They are something from us that we can let our environment know or we can keep it to ourselves. We can either isolate ourselves or share. However, sharing is risky because we don’t know how others will react. And this might be difficult for us.
Emotions and relationships
As I was explaining in my previous post, a tool in relations is to be able to discuss emotions. Some guidelines can be helpful in order to do that:
- Our emotions are our own processes so we need to know them first (and know where to look).
- Once we know how we feel, we need to own our emotions. Responsibility for our emotions comes as a second guideline.
- We have no control over others. This means that others might choose to disregard our emotions or might have an unexpected reaction. This points to two things.
a. We might need to let go of our expectations from others.
b. We need to select wisely who to share our emotions with.
- Allowing and accepting what is comes as the fourth guideline. Our emotions point to what is going on in our relations and with our environment and we can choose to learn and perhaps adapt when necessary.
Emotions might have to do with our past as we are largely shaped by our upbringing. In cases where you notice that your emotional patterns become dysfunctional, therapy might be a good option or even required. This will help to heal some wounds and give closure to any unfinished business from the past. This is what will ultimately allow you to have a different emotional experience and connect in new ways with your environment instead of a stereotypical way (I am thinking of the Pavlov’s dog here).
So what do you think? Do you agree that emotions are rational processes? And can this process of paying attention to them potentially help?