The Power of Emotions
At the heart of most of our problems is the relationship we have with our own emotions.
Whether you are struggling with addiction, anxiety, depression, an eating disorder or are in a relationship fraught with conflict, emotions will be at the heart of it.
Everything we do and every decision we make is based around how we want to feel. We humans are very basic at our core – we want to feel pleasure and avoid pain.
Think about it – why do we want a bigger house, a new job, a better relationship? Because of how we think it will make us feel.
We want to feel important, secure, loved, successful, significant, content and satisfied.
We want to feel more joy and excitement and fully alive. We want the so-called ‘positive feelings’
No one wants the ‘bad ones’ – fear, anger, resentment, anxiety, loneliness or shame. Of course we don’t.
So we do everything in our power to avoid them, suppress them or numb them. We distract ourselves with mindless TV, we drown them out with alcohol, numb them with drugs, stuff them down with food or keep ourselves so busy that there is no time to feel them.
All in an attempt to stop feeling the emotions that we don’t want or to generate the emotions that we do.
But where does this end?
It ends in obesity, addictions, anxiety disorders, depression, unsatisfying relationships, unfulfilled dreams – and a life not lived to its full potential.
Understanding your own emotions and learning to manage them in healthy ways is the key to change and living a life that is meaningful to you.
So how do you start?
Well first you need to understand what emotions do for us.
Emotions tell us what our emotional needs are
Many of us are not even aware that we have emotional needs, let alone what they are. And even if we are aware, we have difficulty communicating them effectively.
We all have a wide range of biologically programmed emotional needs – to feel loved, connected, important, needed, significant, valuable, worthwhile, cared for, respected, safe, accepted, to name but a few.
When these needs are frustrated or go unmet for a period of time, our emotions signal this by giving us anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness hurt and ultimately emptiness.
Emotions tell us who we really are
Our emotions give us an indication of what our values are – the things in life that we hold most dear.
When we act in line with our values we feel a deep sense of pride, satisfaction and contentment. When we act against them we often feel a profound sense of shame.
When values are in conflict with each other, we can feel confused to the point of paralysis. And when we don’t know what our values are we drift through life without meaning or purpose.
Many people who struggle with their identity have never actually identified what it is that is important to them.
Understanding emotions leads to more fulfilling relationships
Without emotions we wouldn’t be able to connect with others – we wouldn’t care about how others feel, we wouldn’t want to be close to others and we wouldn’t be able to understand how people close to us are feeling.
A great deal of conflict in relationships arises from not being able to really understand what another person is feeling, or assuming wrongly that we know how someone else feels.
When we can’t understand what we are feeling or why we are feeling it, we often project the discomfort on to other people and react in ways that damage our relationships.
Trying to control other’s behaviour, looking for excessive reassurance, clinging, and constantly monitoring another person’s behaviour is usually a result of anxiety, and fear of abandonment.
Healthy relationships require being able to express our true feelings about something – that we are actually hurt when we are shouting in anger or that we are terrified of rejection when we are attempting to control.
Problems arise when we can’t handle our emotions, we are driven completely by our emotions or we try to suppress, ignore or distract from our emotions.
The thing with emotions is – they don’t go away. If you try to avoid them they will just keep coming back louder and more powerful until you finally pay attention to what they are saying.
Emotions need to be felt, identified and processed in order to manage them effectively, yet millions of people – especially those with addictive tendencies – struggle with this.
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE FIND IT SO DIFFICULT TO MANAGE EMOTIONS?
Our awareness and ability to manage our emotional states depends on the environment we grew up in and the attachment style we have developed We need the adults in our lives to help us make sense of emotions, to help us to tolerate them and to help us accept and process them.
The most recent neuroscience research has shown that the part of the brain responsible for managing emotions – the pre-frontal cortex – needs certain specific emotional input very early on in our lives in order for it to develop to its optimal capacity
Very often, this doesn’t happen. Sometimes this is because of extreme cases of trauma or abuse, but in the majority of cases, it is due to emotional neglect or the culture we grow up in.
Sometimes our parents are either too busy or too stressed to respond to a child’s emotional needs. Or they are struggling with issues themselves, such as substance abuse, depression or physical illnesses.
In other cases, it is due to the relationships our care-givers have with their own emotions that are passed down to us.
Basically, if we are given messages that our emotions don’t matter, that showing emotions is a sign of weakness or that some emotions are bad – we will end up with a dysfunctional relationship with our own emotions and deficits in the part of the brain that helps to manage them.
SO HOW DO WE START TO GET A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR EMOTIONS?
Read through our other articles on emotions in the free resources – check out our blog articles or better still, contact us for a free no obligation consultation to find out how we can help you with any emotional difficulty you might be facing.