How many of us feel mixed emotions about, well, our emotions?
We may worry that when we’re feeling emotional it’s too much or we’re somehow out of control.
How many times have you heard, “Don’t be so emotional!” or “Stop getting all emotional about it!”?
Rather than taking it as a dig, we should embrace it as a compliment. You see, emotions are powerful stuff. Expressing our emotions and learning to identify them is vital to our personal fulfillment and growth. The next time someone accuses you of feeling emotional, thank them!
Fear, hurt, anger, joy, and sadness are all primary emotions inherent to our humanity. Emotions help us identify what we’re feeling and what we want. They help us to communicate with others and to become the person we want to become.
When we discuss growth and transformation, we may think of it as a cognitive exercise—something we rationalize into place. In truth, our thoughts and feelings are deeply intertwined and connected. Our thoughts and emotions influence one another and shape our decisions and actions.
Emotions help motivate us and help us to make choices. In fact, people who have experienced cerebral events like injury or stroke in the areas of the brain affecting emotion are paralyzed from making decisions. Even something as simple as picking out an outfit for work or deciding between coffee or tea is impossible without the benefit of emotional input.
More importantly than deciding on our clothing and beverages, our emotions help guide us toward greater meaning. They help us to understand what we yearn for—what our heart wants to become fulfilled. Our emotions aren’t meant to be just a steady stream of happiness or joy. Feeling the full spectrum of emotion is part of growth as well.
Many of us avoid feelings like fear, anger, and sadness, but these emotions are part of our makeup. Whether we choose to acknowledge or suppress these feelings is up to us, but in doing so, we’re also numbing ourselves toward the full spectrum of joy and happiness as well. We may also experience secondary emotions—like guilt—which stems from a combination of the primary emotions of fear, hurt, and anger.
One of the points we reiterate over and over again with our students is there are no “bad” emotions. Even if we aren’t comfortable with experiencing them, they’re still there in our unconscious mind, playing an important role. The more we deny our emotions or tamp them down, the more we experience limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.
Our emotions clue us into the important stuff. When you feel anger, it’s an indicator that there’s a situation that really matters to you. You’re feeling something very important. On the same note, if you’re feeling sad or blue, it may stem from hurt or even anger you’re holding back. One thing’s for sure—feelings and emotions are powerful even if we attempt to ignore them.
What happens when we ignore our emotions or tell ourselves they’re invalid? We end up becoming disengaged. We may zone ourselves out with timewasters (or what we call soft addictions); think of your Netflix binge, the bowl of ice cream, or the Amazon order you turn to at the end of a bad day.
Even if we put our emotions aside or look for a temporary salve to soothe our feelings, they will again rise to the surface.
On the other hand, if we express our emotions freely and openly, we also open ourselves up to more experiences and growth. We become more present, more engaged, and more aware of each moment we experience.
We may think there is power in being emotionless. In fact, years ago, keeping a “stiff upper lip” and learning to be logical and emotionless was highly valued. We were taught boys don’t cry and girls shouldn’t get emotional.
The truth is emotions give us true power and skill. Not only do emotions enrich our personal relationships, friendships, and connections, but emotional intelligence is now recognized as important in the business world as well. Emotions help us empathize, communicate, and even lead others.
The root of the word emotion is shared with the root for motivation. Literally, emotions spur us on to action and encourage us to move toward what we want. As humans, our emotional breadth has evolved to keep us moving forward and allow us to tap into the resources we require when facing new situations. Emotions help us anticipate what we need and move us toward action. Our emotions help us move toward pleasure and away from pain. Hurt, fear, anger—all of these emotions help to keep us safe and protected. They let us know a situation is uncomfortable, frightening, or not in line with our personal values.
Our students at the Wright Graduate University learn the power of labeling and acknowledging their emotions as they experience them. Since so many of us are taught to ignore or tamp down our feelings, simply learning how to identify them, label them, and experience them is a huge step forward.
We encourage our students to even call out their emotions; for example, “fear,” as they experience it. It’s often quite eye-opening for many of them to realize the vast spectrum of emotions they feel in a day and even in an hour.
Once we start identifying our emotions, they become less frightening or worrisome. When someone hurts our feelings with an offhanded comment, we can acknowledge we feel pain and hurt. Following it further, we may realize the comment indicates we are feeling disrespected. If one of our yearnings is to be respected (a universal yearning most people share), it’s perfectly natural that a comment would cause us to feel hurt. Our yearning isn’t being met.
What we must realize is emotions are okay! Because we feel hurt or fear in a moment doesn’t mean we will feel this way permanently. It also doesn’t mean we’re weak or we’ve let down our guard. The truth is, we all feel the same primary emotions, even if we choose to ignore them or fail to express them. It doesn’t make them go away.
Experiencing our emotions fully and expressing them is an important part of growth. As we acknowledge all our feelings and emotions, we open ourselves up to greater experience. We are more present. We feel empowered, strong, and assertive.
The next time you’re told you’re too emotional or you feel too much, take it as a compliment. Feeling our emotions is a powerful step on the road to personal transformation and fulfillment.
For more on discovering your best self, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. We have many of our courses available for download on our website. Don’t miss out on our special introductory price on these great courses!
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.