How important are our emotions?
Many people who come to my office tell me they were instructed either from a mother, father, grandparent, or from their spiritual institutions to ignore their feelings. Usually these individuals feel crippled because of their lack of ability to connect, not only with themselves, but also with others. When you are not allowed to express your feelings, or even “feel” your feelings you stop feeling!
Emotions sorted and evaluated in a part of your brain, and if you don’t use that part then it stops being activated. Often these people learned that rewards are only received if you process information cognitively.
What I usually see is that those individuals who shut themselves off emotionally have periods of great success because they are using their intellectual brain all the time. I know that whether you believe in evolution or intelligent design, we have feelings. There are really good reasons for them!
Can you trust your emotions?
The answer is “yes” and “no.” Some people process their present emotional experiences from how they processed or were allowed to process emotions in the past. In that case, they may not be able to trust them. Those people often feel intense shame about themselves and their abilities or worth to others and these emotions have roots in their past. These are not trustworthy emotions.
Other people are more in the present with their emotions. They typically are more energized and have a longer list of emotions that they feel and identify. They trust their emotions to give them valid feedback on topics of what gives them pleasure, what to avoid because it is unsafe, and about their self-worth in this world. They are generally spontaneous and flexible with their expressions of emotions.
If I feel my emotions I won’t be able to control them?
Some people are afraid of their feelings because they sense that if they allow themselves to be angry they will not be able to stop being angry. Other people feel that if they cave into their long term depression or fears, they will be swallowed up by them. All of us can be overwhelmed with our emotions at times, but I recommend having appropriate safeguards set up if you feel you won’t be able to recover from your experiences.
Some measures are:
- to have someone you trust know that you plan to explore these feelings,
- find a counselor who you can open up to who knows how to help you regulate your feelings,
- or make a promise to yourself about how you will get to safety if you feel lost or out of control.
I have a number below of the Colorado Crisis Centers where counselors are always available to help you. Keep that number handy if you are attempting to open this emotional path for the first time.
Emotions are Fickle
“Sometimes I am happy and I don’t know why and other times I’m really down and I still don’t know why. How do I know what is real with my emotions?”
The truth is our emotions can be triggered by a number of things in our environment or ourselves that we are not aware of. The food we eat, whether it is healthy or has high sugar content can affect our mood. A scent in the air can trigger an emotional response for good or bad. Good or bad memories that we have from the past can be triggered without our knowledge or desire. Sometimes we keep certain thoughts cycling in our brain that stir emotions. These memories can cause great love to stir in us or cause us to be overwhelmed with grief, anger or depression.
Mostly emotions are something like a thermostat. They are an indicator of something going on in us. We love it when our thermostat is indicating happy feelings and thoughts. But, sometimes they indicate a red flag to seek professional counseling. If your emotions are causing you distress which does not seem to lessen over time, then I was say you have the “red flag” emotions. Because they are a thermostat or indicator, take care of what they are telling you.
Inordinate amount of fear or anxiety
Some people are fearful individuals because of an event that happened in their life. Other people have an intuitive (sixth sense) or extra-sensory amount of fear and suspicion in certain environments. Often time’s men do not feel fear as much as they feel angry from feeling out of control. This can be coming from a person’s intuition or from a past painful experience.
In the case of it being a sixth sense, I would say that we have some animal intuition of fight/flight instincts still in us. That fear may be legitimate, but is best used if it does not completely control our responses. Experiencing a fight, flight or freeze response from being stuck in an elevator can be natural intuitive response for being in an enclosed area. But if your response is to faint or panic, then it may be time to get help for a more appropriate response.
Value your intuition, just don’t let it be in control and cause you extreme discomfort.