Emotions 101

In my opinion there should be a required class in elementary school about how emotions work. I have sat in the counseling room with too many people who were never given the opportunity to learn about their emotions. We assume these things are learned in the home, but if people who have never learned about their emotions are supposed to be teaching younger people about their emotions - we have a problem. Emotions are confusing and if we aren’t given the skills to process them they are even more confusing.

Whether you’re naturally an emotional person or a stoic person I would guess that you believe that there are “good” emotions and “bad” emotions. We may experience emotions this way, but good and bad emotions don't actually exist. Some emotions are definitely more pleasant to experience than others, but all emotions give us information we need to know about what is going on around us. Emotions were given to us so that we can connect with our family, friends, coworkers, and other people we come into contact with each day. Emotions help us make note of things we want to change in our lives for the better. If we close ourselves off to emotions we often close ourselves off to being known by others which is one of the best ways to experience healing from past hurts.

It’s helpful to think about our emotions like we do our five senses. We don’t usually say that the ability to smell is a negative sense. We may wish we didn’t have the ability to smell when there is a dirty diaper in the room or the trash hasn’t been taken out in a week, but we still acknowledge our sense of smell and allow ourselves to continue to smell. If we ignored our sense of smell we would be missing out on important information that we need in order to interact with the world around us. If we decided to simply stop responding to things that we smell, taste, touch, hear, or see we would be in for trouble. You would walk into traffic, ignore your crying baby, or eat something past its expiration date. Same goes for emotions. There is a saying we have in the counseling world that goes, “Emotions buried alive never die” meaning if we store up our anger, sadness, guilt, shame, etc. we will still experience the repercussions of those emotions. The energy that exists with that emotion is still with us. A lot of times unexpressed emotions come out through depression, anxiety, headaches, stomachaches, or other illnesses. Next time you feel tightness in your shoulders or sense a headache coming on, stop and think about what emotions you have experienced that day. More often than not, there will be an emotion you have been trying to ignore stored up inside of you. I’m not saying every stomach bug comes from an emotion that you’ve suppressed, but our body, soul, and spirit, are connected and all impact the other.

We tend to think we can control our emotions. But, because we are humans we are going to have emotional reactions to our surroundings. Instead we should focus on controlling the thoughts we let consume our minds. If we are telling ourselves the truth (even if it’s difficult to hear) our emotions will follow. If you're feeding yourself lies, you will have emotions based on these thoughts as well. A lot of the pain and confusion you feel in any given week can be avoided if you are willing to tell yourself the truth and pay attention to your emotions. Relief does not happen quickly, which can be difficult for our Amazon Prime, drive through, microwave world, but the payoff is well worth it. It’s time we stop giving emotions a bad rap and pay attention to the messages they are trying to send.