Emotions. An Introduction

Friday, March 29, 2013

I‘ve decided to start a series of posts about a very important topic that is emotions. And this post is an intro to the series. In it I’ll briefly talk about emotions in general and about their purpose.

Emotion is a reaction to a certain stimulus.

A cause for experiencing an emotion might be a certain event, an interaction with someone or something, a memory, or just a thought.

"An emotion is the psychosomatic form in which man experiences his estimate of the beneficial or harmful relationship of some aspect of reality to himself." -- Nathaniel Branden

Similarly how physiological reactions help us take care of our physical health, emotions help us take care of our well-being – just in a more universal, comprehensive way.

If we injure our leg, we experience physical pain that says to us that our leg is injured and we need to acknowledge it, take care of it, and keep it safe for a while. If it’s cold outside and we go outside without wearing warm clothes, we experience cold, our hands and lips begin to shiver, our body gets tense – all of this informs us that it’s not appropriate for us to be in this temperature, and we need to get warmer clothes or bring our temperature up in a different way. Such physiological signals are pretty clear to us, and most of the times we react to them accordingly.

Our emotional signals, however, we often tend to ignore and repress, or we are not able to identify and understand them.

But if we feel anger, fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, sadness, disgust, surprise, hate, or joy, all of those emotions are communicating something to us – like the pain of our injured leg and cold does.

So, the purpose of emotions is to inform us about our status, in comparison with our needs, goals, wants, and values. In other words, emotions help us to get in touch with our needs and take care of our well-being.

People very often classify emotions as “good” and “bad”, or “positive” and “negative”, according to how they feel in the moment. If the emotion is pleasant, it seems “good” or “positive” – if it feels unpleasant, it seems “bad” or “negative”.

However in truth ALL emotions are good, useful and necessary, even if some of them feel unpleasant, like shame, guilt, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and so on. So, it would be more appropriate to say that emotions are “pleasant” and “unpleasant”, rather than “good” and “bad”, or “positive” and “negative”.

After all, when our tooth hurts we don’t think that this pain is bad and is trying to harm us. We understand that this pain communicates to us that something’s wrong with our tooth and we have to take care of it. Tooth pain is useful, even if it’s unpleasant. Same thing with emotions.

Trying to defend ourselves from “bad” (i.e. unpleasant) emotions or ignore them is the same thing as trying to ignore heavily injured leg – or, instead of cleansing it and putting a bandage on, deciding to take pain medication and that’s it. We understand that it won’t solve the real, underlying problem.

So, I’d like to encourage you to invest in learning more about introspection, about emotions, about YOUR emotions. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with your emotions, to accept them. Don’t be afraid to feel them and analyze them. After all, emotions – all emotions – are A PART OF YOU, and they always try to give you useful and very important information about your life – even if sometimes it seems that they’re not.


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2 comments

  1. Great article; it is so true that our emotions are natural responses from our body that should be understood and listened to, not judged, labeled, or repressed. We do ourselves a great disservice in trying to censor our emotions instead of letting them take us on a journey into ourselves.

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