With a society that puts such an emphasis on logic and reason, the true importance of our emotions and what they do for us can get lost. Emotions are SO MUCH MORE than just feelings. They are more than just things to get over or work through. Emotions are guides. And when we learn how they guide us and what they do for us, it becomes easier to sit with them, listen to them, and learn from them. Some ways that our emotions serve us and support us are:
THEY HELP US MAKE DECISIONS
Our emotions, above all else, are guides. They teach us about the things we want more of in our lives and the areas where we can support ourselves. Joy and excitement can motivate us towards our goals and values. Anger teaches us about our boundaries and what we are passionate about. We don’t always have to make decisions from our emotions (for example, sometimes fear shows up before an important transition, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it). However, factoring them in teaches us about ourselves and the life that we want.
THEY MOTIVATE OUR ACTIONS
Sometimes this is a thought out process, similar to the one described above. But they are also smart! For example, if you walk into the street and all of a sudden a car comes towards you, fear is the thing that moves you out of the way before your logic and reason thought processes even begin. Emotions are fast. Learning to understand them can help us not only feel gratitude for what they do for us, but also learn more about ourselves and our actions.
THEY COMMUNICATE OUR INNER EXPERIENCE (TO OURSELVES AND OTHERS)
Did you know that human beings are capable of making ten thousand different facial expressions? That’s more than any other species. The internal emotional process teaches us about ourselves, but the external manifestation helps us to communicate with others, even if we are struggling to find the words. This creates space for more open, honest, and authentic relationships.
THEY SIGNAL OUR INTENTIONS
Similarly, our emotions communicate with those around us (even without our words). While this may feel scary and vulnerable at times, it can also create more space for safe and open relationships.
THEY ENHANCE OUR CAPACITY FOR EMPATHY
When we feel pain and grimace, our facial expression can actually trigger that same felt response in another person looking at us thanks to mirror neurons in our brains. Empathic responding is one of the most important parts of deep connections with others.
THEY FACILITATE STRONGER SOCIAL BONDS
Because of their ability to enhance empathic responding with others, our emotions are what give us the capacity to develop stronger social connections with others.
Emotions can be difficult to experience, but they aren’t always negative. They create space to learn about ourselves, others, and how we connect with one another.