What are emotions? Most believe they are a naturally occurring response to something – an event, environment or situation. Consider this scenario …
Imagine you are walking down a dark alley, alone, at night when you hear sounds behind you that indicate someone could be following you. What happens in your body, your mind, your feelings, your behavior? Most of us would notice an automatic response to something like this – our body surges adrenaline, and our thoughts sound something like “ Oh no!” We would likely begin to walk quickly or run for safety and the emotion we would likely feel would be fear.
In this example, you haven’t chosen to feel fear, fear is a naturally occurring response to the situation. In some sense, emotions are pieces of information we can utilize to understand ourselves and situations. The emotion of fear in this example is helpful information and encourages movement away from a threat.
In order for emotions to serve us well, they must be noticed, named, allowed and considered for purposes of understanding and then for making decisions as we go about life. Emotions such as excitement, surprise, and joy are easy for us to notice and allow, whereas emotions such as deep sadness and anger are typically not. Difficult emotions can be quite painful to notice and tolerate, therefore we tend to want to avoid them and move away from them quickly.
Painful emotions have value and it would serve us well to stop running away from these emotions. Emotional health requires us to learn to manage our difficult emotions rather than consistently avoiding them – to name them and sit with them so they might teach us what we are to learn or know.
Emotions are not inherently bad. Let’s learn to welcome them and strive to discover what they have to teach us about ourselves and the situations in which we find ourselves.