We all know that being human means we experience a wide range of emotions; happiness, sadness, anger, fear, guilt, surprise, joy, loneliness, and love to name a few.
Yet quite often when a difficult emotion comes up, we try to avoid it, get rid of it, or beat ourselves up for having it in the first place.
Emotions contain messages
We forget that our emotions have evolved for a purpose and often contain important information. Here are some common messages an emotion might be telling us…
Anger often tells us that we have been hurt or treated unfairly. It can serve as a warning sign that there is something wrong that needs to be addressed.
Sadness often tells us we have experienced some type of loss. This could be an external loss such as the loss of a person, experience, or job. It can also be an internal loss such as a loss of meaning or perhaps we are not living up to some ideal we have about ourselves.
Fear has evolved to warn us of some type of danger, its purpose is to protect us. This was especially important back when we were living in caves and there was danger everywhere.
Guilt shows up when we believe we have done something wrong. It can tell us that we need to make amends with someone.
Love tells us that we appreciate someone, and we want to be close to them. It motivates us to connect with others.
How can our emotions help us?
When we try to hide, or fight, or runaway from our emotions, we often miss the message they might be trying to tell us. To help think about this, the next time you’re experiencing a difficult emotion, ask yourself:
- Is this emotion telling me I need to address, solve, or come to terms with something?
- What does this emotion tell me about what I care about? Are there any values underlying this emotion?
- Is this emotion telling me I need to do something differently?
- Can this emotion help me empathize with other people who may be experiencing something similar?
Sometimes when we experience a difficult emotion there might not be a clear purpose, or message. In these situations, an emotion like this can be a reminder to be more self-compassionate. To read more about this idea click here.
When we reframe any difficult emotion as having a purpose, or a message (even if it is just to be more compassionate to ourselves), our emotions can become an ally, instead of an enemy we need to run away from.