Emotions contain amazing information! What a waste when we ignore, suppress or numb the ones we don’t like…
Do you have favourite emotions? Like joy, excitement, calmness?
What about the ones you don’t like; uncomfortable ones? Like sadness, fear, anger, stress, shame?
Do you find yourself willing your favourites in and actively trying to push the ones you dislike away?
And now, do you find yourself being a little confused by my last question? Even irritated?
I mean, why would you NOT do that??
Because pushing them away is rarely helpful. At best, it offers temporary relief.
We don’t consciously create our emotions. They are a response. A response to a thought, an event, a circumstance. Emotions arrive, they stay a while and – unless we fuel them with stories in our minds – they go away again.
They are simply SIGNALS. Signals to show us how we are and whether we’re in balance. So how about we listen to them? We USE the valuable information they provide? We welcome them all in? Also the ones we don’t like.
So, what kind of info can these signals hold?
Anger: you feel powerless, perhaps someone has crossed your boundaries
Fear: you’re being alerted to potential danger, you’re concerned about something you care about
Stress: something is too much, you’re overextended
Sadness: you’re experiencing loss or feelings of loss
Shame: you feel somehow flawed and/or unworthy
Joy: you feel well and contented
Excitement: you’re looking forward to something, you’re passionate about something
Calmness: you’re in balance and peaceful
How can we access this amazing info?
Using emotions as signals sounds simple enough, but emotions can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. When we’re in reactive mode and desperately trying to get rid of emotional discomfort, stepping back to recognise this valuable information can be hard.
So how then? By ALLOWING them.
This means ‘letting it be as it is’. It can feel counter-intuitive, but if we can allow, feel and even welcome all our emotions, we can see what they’re trying to tell us.
When we don’t allow them, but instead try to get rid of or suppress them, they can fester, explode out in different, unrelated situations, or leave us feeling generally blocked or apathetic.
So HOW then do we do the ALLOWING?
Like lots of the best things in life, it’s extremely simple and also quite hard…
Allowing our emotions means that we sit with them. We get out of our thinking minds and notice the sensations in our bodies (as all emotions manifest themselves as sensations in our bodies).
We tune into the physical sensations with an attitude of curiosity. We notice what they’re like, where they are and what (if anything) happens when we pay attention to them. And we breathe.
Which is exactly what I did with feelings of sadness a couple of nights ago
I felt sad, which is unusual for me. I wasn’t sure exactly why and I noticed that my thinking mind was really busy trying to analyse some minor family issues from earlier in the evening. It was trying to solve, fix and get rid of the discomfort of the sadness.
So I chose to stop and sit with it all instead.
I sat quietly, tuned into the sensations in my body, which was a feeling of heaviness in my chest. I investigated, breathed into the feeling, where it grew, became more intense and then fell away again.
I still felt remnants of sadness afterwards, but they also passed. My mind never worked out what the actual ‘cause’ was and also stopped trying to fix it. My body had allowed it to ebb & flow and it shifted. While it doesn’t always happen this way, there is always movement. And sometimes gentle investigation afterwards of possible causes and/or actions can be helpful too.
Learning to see my emotions for what they are – signals. And allowing them, has been transformative in my life.
Try for yourself. Making sure that the goal is not to fix or solve anything, but approaching instead with curiosity and kindness to yourself and to whatever shows up along the way.