Your emotions are a part of you, and you should never ignore them. The more you understand your emotions, the more you will be able to be in touch with them.
So much is written about emotions — how to understand them, how to control them, or how they can help or hinder you. Just look at the self-help section of a bookstore or the cover of the multitude of grab mags at the checkout counter of your frequented food store. All can be helpful, but they are not always the truth and are not personalized for you.
So, what are emotions, really, and why do we have them in the first place? Emotions can best be viewed as essential reactions to being human and a clue of what you experience from the inside out. Emotions are really energy in motion.
If you ignore or suppress a challenging emotion like sadness or anger or guilt (and all the associated reactions), you actually feed the dragon. It is crucial to recognize a feeling, take a moment to assess where it came from, and in a safe place, really notice and feel those feelings.
Don’t deny them. If ignored or suppressed, they grow. If attended to and expressed, they shift in energy and you can become emotionally numb.
Culturally and historically, the importance of emotions has often been overlooked. Humans have been focused on logic, reason, and thinking. For a long time, I believed that this is where answers are to be found.
Human beings are now realizing the importance of emotions in thinking, reasoning, decision-making, leadership, and relationships. Indeed, like other human activities such as sleeping, eating, and breathing, emotions are non-discretionary.
You may be able to choose to some degree when or how you react, but you do not get to choose if or when you experience them. They are a part of what makes us human.
People are learning a great deal about emotions from various perspectives. Some insights come from psychology and others from neuroscience.
If you’ve been attempting to prioritize logic while shutting out emotions, you may find yourself feeling numb, disconnected. But you can change your relationship with emotions to see them as a useful part of your makeup that you may not spend enough time cultivating.
Here are a few ideas for how to grow to understand your emotions better and become more in touch with them.
1. Learn that each emotion has a specific meaning or story to tell, that each emotion has a specific impulse or predisposition and each emotion exists for a purpose.
In other words, emotions are not random and are actually quite logical. Each is very specific, and you need to listen to and understand them to think clearly, know yourself, act in accordance with your values, and understand the thinking and action of others. Learning this can make them a tool as powerful as reasoning, thinking, and conversation.
Getting “emotionally naked” is about learning how to be open about your authentic self with the rest of the world (well, at least those you trust). It is about how being secretive about yourself can lead to physical, mental, and emotional sickness. Can we actually try to live healthier by being honest with our fellow humans about who we are and how we are?
2. Try this exercise if you feel emotionally numb and overwhelmed with an emotional experience.
As Sue Monk Kidd says in her book The Invention of Wings, “There is no pain on Earth that doesn’t crave a benevolent witness.”
Here’s a process used for reclaiming parts of your authentic self that you may have left hidden in the shadows. Follow this template for naked-sharing slowly, using a journal, personal reflection time, and patience.
Recall: Remember a belief or experience that causes you to keep it hidden.
Reflect: Consider this memory. What happened? Who was there? How did it affect you?
Reveal on paper: Write in a journal your memories, thoughts, feelings, actions, and emotional reactions. Just free flow, get it out and on paper. Then read it to yourself as if you were hearing about it from your younger self.