This week we add the emotional piece to the physical and mental aspects of a balanced life. Understanding our emotional selves is imperative in achieving balance.
Emotions supply our innate, powerful, internal guidance system with the information that is necessary to keep us safe and secure, balanced. Feelings. They alert us to what is happening around us, supply a corresponding energy, influence our behavior, motivate change and are the key component to connecting with others.
And yet we are trained early on to label our emotions either good or bad and to hide or ignore them, rendering the internal radar system that we were given, ineffective.
“Stop that crying!”
“Stop being angry!”
It’s no wonder we learn to deny or suppress our emotions.
Emotions, alone, are neither “good” nor “bad.” They just “are.” They help us successfully navigate through life. It is the action exhibited in response to an emotion that elicits “good” or “bad” behavior. We tend to prefer the “good” emotions–love, joy, comfort. But without the “bad” emotions–fear, anger, contempt–we cannot protect ourselves from harm. Think fight or flight. Survival. It is the energy that enables us to leap backwards from the pathway of a speeding car or repel the emotional abuse of another human. Our fear-based emotions are within us for a reason. They are not “bad.”
With each emotion, we experience an energy. Feeling sad, depressed, or resigned lowers our energy level. Typically, we assume this is “bad,” Not necessarily so. In fact, there are periods when “down time” is appropriate. It is necessary to reflect on a discouraging situation, mourn a loss, or re-evaluate goals and life direction.
All of our emotions are integral to a wonderfully designed system that allows us to live balanced. Emotions are connected to the brain and create an energy within us. If we ignore our emotions, our internal experience, it may well have a negative influence upon our behaviors, our external experience and our physical health.
Once we realize that every thought or action is accompanied by an emotion and escape connecting a value judgement to our emotions, we can begin to listen to our internal feedback system and allow it to teach us. We can utilize the energy connected to our emotions to inch us toward balance. A memory from the past, a phone call in the present, creating a plan for the future may excite an emotion. Instantly, we feel afraid, sad, happy, or loved. Once we acknowledge the emotion without attempting to deny or repress it, we can analyze it. What triggered this? What is my system telling me? What can I learn? How might this affect my actions in a positive way?
This is not simple. Many emotions are closely related and connected over time. We experience the need to protect ourselves so we create defense mechanisms of denial (pretending something doesn’t exist) or repression (using humor or intellectualizing). My first clue that a client is avoiding emotion is the use of word and phrases: “kind of,” sort of,” and “maybe.” They preface a statement regarding their feelings, making it easier to retract if it is “wrong.” I try to teach my clients than a true feeling is never “wrong. We become fragmented by either allowing ourselves to sway completely by our emotions, unchecked by thought, or by living predominately based upon our thoughts, ignoring emotions.
True balance is achieved when we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, acknowledge them, and then think through consequences prior to acting upon them, and finally expressing them in appropriate ways at the appropriate times. Not easy.
Below are a few tools we can use to help our emotional health.
- Journal regularly about feelings
- Be aware of how your body is responding to feelings
- Be kind to yourself about your emotions–they are neither good or bad!
- Read books about emotional health–there are many
- Talk therapy–Discuss your emotions with a professional
- Maintain healthy exercise, nutrition, and sleep
Next week: More on balance–Inspiration
“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” ~Roger Ebert
“I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be okay.” ~Iyanla Vanzant