How many of us feel mixed emotions about, well, our emotions?
We may worry when we’re feeling emotional, it’s too much, or we’re somehow out of control. We may feel an array of different emotions and wonder if what we’re feeling “normal.”
How many times have you heard, “Don’t be so emotional!” or “Stop getting all emotional about it!”?
Rather than taking the implication that feeling emotional is a negative thing, we should embrace it as a compliment. You see, emotions are powerful. Expressing our emotions and learning to identify common emotions 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. These common human 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. It may seem cold and unemotional, but in truth, our thoughts and feelings are deeply intertwined and connected to our personal growth. Our thoughts and emotions influence one another and shape our decisions and actions.
Emotions help motivate us and help us to make choices. When we’re feeling emotional about a decision or a situation, it’s an indication that it’s really important to us. People who have experienced cerebral events like injury or stroke in the areas of the brain affecting emotion are often 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 common human 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—positive emotions are great, but feeling the full spectrum of emotion is part of growth as well.
As you yearn, engage, and take the other steps in the [growth] process, you must learn to ride–and enjoy—an emotional rollercoaster. This may sound scary, but as some of you know, rollercoaster rides can also be exhilarating. It is all in your perspective. The climb to the top is great, but it’s not possible without the plunge to the bottom.
–Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
Many of us avoid feelings like fear, anger, and sadness, but these seemingly negative emotions are part of our makeup. They don’t always feel good, it’s true, but they are powerful drivers to help steer us away from danger and toward positive situations. Whether we choose to acknowledge or suppress these harder-to-feel feelings is up to us, but in doing so, we’re also numbing ourselves toward feeling the full spectrum of joy and happiness.
We may also find that some of our emotions are harder to identify. They might not fit into the category of those primary emotions, but they can still feel very strong. When we examine them closely, we may find that we’re experiencing secondary emotions—like guilt—which stems from a combination of the primary emotions of fear, hurt, and anger.
One of the points we repeatedly reiterate with our students is there are no “bad” emotions. Even if we aren’t comfortable experiencing certain emotions like anger, 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 reinforce limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.
Our emotions clue us into the important stuff. When we feel anger, it’s an indicator there’s a situation that really matters to us. We’re feeling something very important and even passionate. On the same note, if we’re feeling sad or blue, it may stem from hurt or even anger we’re holding back. It can be helpful to really let ourselves feel those feelings—cry, yell, or whatever seems natural to us. One thing’s for sure, feelings and emotions are powerful even if we attempt to ignore them.
We may have grown up thinking certain emotions weren’t okay. For example, maybe it was unladylike to feel angry or express anger. Perhaps we heard boys don’t cry or “man up and be brave.” Or maybe we grew up feeling like it was important to project an air of positivity all the time—that it wasn’t okay to feel hurt, sad, or frustrated about something. So we learn to ignore our emotions or hide them away.
We may zone ourselves out with timewasters (or what we call soft addictions); think of that Netflix binge, the bowl of ice cream, or the Amazon order we turn to at the end of a bad day. Soft addictions can even present as healthy behaviors—throwing ourselves into our work to avoid emotions or choosing to go to the gym because we don’t want to deal with feeling angry or emotional. While working or getting exercise are quite positive activities, they become soft addictions when we’re using them to avoid feeling emotional.
Even if we put our emotions aside or look for a temporary salve to soothe our feelings, they will rise to the surface again.
On the other hand, if we express our emotions freely and openly, we also open ourselves up to more experiences, connections, and growth. We become more present, more engaged, and more aware of each moment we experience.
Your feelings will spur the action of engaging…When you are more in the here and now, expressing what you feel, you often blurt out truths you weren’t consciously aware of until they come out of your mouth. Your feelings will guide you in breaking free from the bonds of what constrains you in liberating and guide you toward what you desire. It’s liberating to be spontaneous, expressing how you feel, and flowing with your emotional truth. Moments of intense feelings are some of the most potent elements…where we can re-encode beliefs, experiences, and memories with compassion, acceptance, and new interpretations. Recognizing and harnessing the passion of dedicating helps you carry on in the face of the world’s challenges and your own inner barriers. It yields a new you.
At the same time, when powerful emotions overcome you, you’ll need the skills to interpret and express them effectively. These skills may include comforting yourself, using anger to get rid of pain, or engaging in a whole host of other responses such as allowing the full process of loss in sadness and risking to reach out and share with others in joy. You’ll also need to develop the skills of comforting yourself since you will be hurt more as you transform. We all need to seek comfort and allies for the unpredictable emotional changes of transformation—not the surface solace of soft addictions like mindless gossiping or over-indulging in “comfort foods,” but the deeper succor of self-soothing.
–Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
We may think there is power in being emotionless. In fact, years ago, keeping a “stiff upper lip” and learning to be logical and unemotional was highly valued. Yet, 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 take action. Our emotions help us move toward pleasure and away from pain. Hurt, fear, anger—all of these emotions help 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.
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—our deep want or need–isn’t being met.
Similarly, we may realize that when a friend doesn’t include us, we feel hurt but also fear. Why? Because we’re left out. We yearn to be included, to be loved, to belong…being left behind results in a fear and hurt response.
We must realize that emotions are okay, and we may experience many of them over a day! 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. “Feeling emotional” is positive—it means that we fully realize the beautiful array of human emotions that we’re all capable of. Becoming aware of our range of feelings is crucial to developing a stronger emotional intelligence.
Experiencing our emotions fully and expressing them is an essential 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, say thank you! Take it as a compliment. Feeling our emotions is a powerful step on the road to personal transformation and fulfillment.
If you’re looking for other ways to increase your emotional intelligence, don’t miss our personal growth courses at Wright Now. We offer an array of resources and classes to help you get ahead in your career, strengthen your relationship and live a life of MORE.
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.