Understanding your emotions to live more peacefully. Understanding your emotions? It is said that emotions are the compasses of our lives. Unfortunately, when they arise in us, we feel more like we are facing a “Tsunami“ than messengers that are supposed to help us be happier. What if we started by understanding each of our emotions to live more peacefully?
Understanding our emotions: the origins
Our emotions have accompanied our cave ancestors. In fact, they are what allowed them to survive among the many dangers of that time.
How did they do it? Basic emotions such as fear, anger, and surprise can be read immediately on the face and indicate to mates that a predator is on the prowl.
It was some time before language developed, so our ancestors relied heavily on emotions to survive.
Disgust, for example, which is also considered a basic emotion, allowed our ancestors to notice that certain foods were not for them. Their bodies reacted to indicate this.
In addition, there is joy and sadness which helped them to survive. Joy helps to strengthen the bonds of belonging that are so important when you are surrounded by a thousand and one dangers. Sadness also strengthens these bonds. Indeed, tears are a signal that we send to others to be comforted.
In other words, the basic emotions are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, Surprise, and Fear.
And, they are the ones that helped our ancestors to survive when they did not yet have a language to communicate.
Understanding our emotions: today
Today, everything is different. First of all, we no longer live under the threat of a thousand and one dangers. Moreover, language has become more than powerful.
As a result, we don’t really know what to do with our emotions anymore. Even worse, now that we can “hide” behind words, our emotions are no longer welcome.
Unfortunately for us, our emotions don’t want to go away, and the less we listen to them, the more they get reinforced. This leads us to be irritable, aggressive, or depressive.
Understanding our emotions is essential to living happier and more Peacefully.
Understanding your emotions: Anger
Anger is an emotion, so it is always accompanied by physiological changes.
In the case of anger, our heart rate increases, our fists clench, our eyebrows furrow… In fact, there is a geyser of energy surging through us. We are “boiling”.
Why? Because anger indicates that our need to be respected is not being met. In fact, it is triggered when we feel that our limits have been reached and this geyser of energy is released so that we re-establish our limits and satisfy our need to be respected.
Example: A traffic jam is on the horizon and anger comes knocking at our door. Our fists clench on the steering wheel and our heart races. Our need to get to work on time is in jeopardy and we feel disrespected.
Anger is very useful! It invites us to assert ourselves. Asserting ourselves means giving ourselves the right to think, feel and want things and to say so in a way that respects others.
Yes, anger tells us we are facing an obstacle, and it is up to us to discover what our unmet needs are because of the obstacle and to find a solution to get around it.
Anger is frightening because it is thought to be synonymous with violence. In fact, all emotions need to be listened to and then expressed.
In other words, when we are angry, let’s admit it: Ok, I am angry. To express it, we have a choice: we can either scream, pound our fists or close our eyes and breathe deeply and calmly.
We don’t have a choice whether or not to feel an emotion. It is there and it is always determined to be heard. Fortunately, since it is always accompanied by changes in our body, we know it is there.
Our role is to name it, to identify who it is and why it is there. However, we always have a choice in how we express it.
When we feel anger, let’s understand that we have every right to feel it. It is our right as human beings to feel emotions.
However, let us understand that just because we feel anger does not mean we have to be angry.
At any time, we have the choice to act in the way that suits us. And, to avoid, violence, regret, breaking our car, or hurting ourselves or those around us, let’s prefer to act according to our values and goals, rather than letting our anger run wild.
“You can be angry, but act with kindness.”
Understanding your emotions: Fear
Fear is a very useful emotion because it protects us from danger. It was very useful in cave times when predators were lurking around, but today, a poorly managed fear can turn into an anxiety attack.
Fear, like any emotion, is accompanied by physiological changes to help us face dangers: hyperventilation and arterial increase to oxygenate the muscles (we are ready to pounce if needed), our pupils dilate to improve our vision and our well-oxygenated brain is more concentrated and attentive…
In other words, the fear that can be similar to stage fright is very useful. Indeed, we are more focused on the task at hand and we can thus give the best of ourselves.
The concern with fear is when it paralyzes us. How can it do that? It’s not fear, it’s our mind.
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In fact, when we are afraid, we analyze all possible situations and compare them with our abilities and resources. When our abilities and resources do not seem sufficient to face the situation, we paralyze ourselves, hoping to escape the situation.
Today, we have a problem called the mind: we think too much! And, this is what makes our fear constantly titillated and can paralyze us.
What to do with fear?
Fear is only a signal. When our life is in danger, we do what it inspires us to do: jump left or right or run. Otherwise, when our life is not in danger, let’s try to get out of it.
Yes, fear is just a signal. It tells us: I feel danger. I need you to be more vigilant. Are you really ready?
Let’s listen to it and then breathe calmly. Just as with anger, we have a total choice to act on our values and goals, rather than letting it take over our lives.
“It is normal to be sad or angry. What’s not normal is to stop living.”
Understand your emotions to live more serenely
Understanding your emotions: Sadness
Sadness is also a very useful emotion. Indeed, it indicates to us that we are facing a lack: someone, something, or a situation has just disappeared and we will miss it.
Sadness is accompanied by physiological changes and everything in us slows down: heart rate, blood pressure … Our body turns inward.
This withdrawal is important because it gives us the opportunity to step back and reorganize ourselves. Indeed we live a lack and that represents a vacuum in our life. We, therefore, need to reorganize ourselves.
Sadness is also accompanied by crying and our shoulders are hunched over. Our bodies tell others that we need comfort, so they are more likely to come to us. These signs of attention will help us to reorganize ourselves more serenely.
Sometimes we misunderstand the emotion of sadness. Sadness does not mean going into a corner, but rather seeking the company of others. We are social animals, we need others, especially when we are not doing well.
Sadness invites us to slow down and focus on what is important: taking care of ourselves and surrounding ourselves with the right people.
Sadness is to be lived with, not hidden. And, like anger and fear, just because we feel sadness does not mean we are sad. In fact, we can feel sadness and still laugh at jokes, for example.
Understanding your emotions: Joy
Joy, like sadness, deserves to be shared. However, it is not always well seen to start jumping around shouting our joy. It is said that it has a selfish side… It is unfortunate.
Because it is joy itself that makes us jump around. Yes, this emotion breathes into us a geyser of vitality. Everything in us explodes and shouts: I am alive and I love it!
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Furthermore, joy is contagious. A smile begets a smile and joy begets joy!
Joy is accompanied by hormone secretions: endorphin, dopamine… Hormones are essential to our good health, so why deprive ourselves of them and why not share them with others?
Joy indicates that our need for accomplishment and self-realization is satisfied. We have just experienced or done something that makes us feel like we are ourselves and alive. In fact, it tells us that we are on the right path!
We need to connect to ourselves while staying connected to others. It’s a vital need! So let’s do things that make us happy and share that happiness with our human family to live more Peacefully:
In conclusion, I would like you to remember from this article that it is perfectly normal to feel emotions. It is what makes you a human being and they tell you when your life is not going in the right direction.
However, they are messengers, not fellow travelers. Can you see the difference?
They come to tell you something, it is up to you to listen to them, but then, once you have understood their message, go on your way in the way that suits you best.
Don’t let them make you think that your life is over.