Emotions Aren’t Our Enemy

I suspect one reason that humans struggle with our emotions so much is that we’re often taught to fear them, to see them as an inconvenience, obstacle or weakness. We’re not taught that they’re a necessary tool: for interpersonal interaction, for mental, emotional and physical health, and for general interaction with the world around us.

We’re not taught to integrate and accept and question our emotions in a non-combative way.

My emotions are my brain attempting to communicate something to me.

Instead of being taught to ask ‘what are you trying to tell me?’ I was taught to believe emotions were an exploitable weakness, a way for us to be tempted to make bad choices.

I can see how it would feel that way to people that don’t see emotions as a necessary tool that can actually be used to make sure we get our needs met. Emotions, though, are our very first tool for getting our needs met.

Babies don’t cry because they’re selfish,* they cry because they have a need they can’t take care of and need someone to take care of it for them. That need might be physical (a diaper change) or emotional (being held). Of course, even the emotional is also physical.

We’re particularly bad about accepting ‘negative’ emotions and seeing their value.

But we feel discomfort or pain to warn us that something is wrong or needs to be attended.

Without anger, we might not recognize injustice or the need to set boundaries and protect ourselves from exploitative behavior from others.

Without sadness, we might not recognize the need for comfort and companionship.

Without fear, we might not recognize when we’re in danger or need to be cautious.

When we ask ourselves ‘what are my emotions telling me? What do I need?’ we can proceed to find the healthiest possible ways to address those needs.

When we ignore our emotions, we often ignore our needs in the process, until they become so strong we’ll seize on just about anything that will give us temporary relief, even if that source of temporary relief will just cause further problems.

Our emotions aren’t a weakness, they’re a tool – how effective they are depends on how well we learn to use them.

*Some conservative Christians teach that babies cry because of their selfish sin nature. Yes, really.

3 thoughts on “Emotions Aren’t Our Enemy

  1. This is all so true. I’ve only recently realized that I grew up hearing “stop being afraid” or “don’t get angry” instead of healthy things like “Why are you afraid or how can you conquer that fear?” or “what can we do to express/process your anger?”
    Ugh. Frustrating to feel like I’m starting over learning feelings at age 34.

    Like

    1. Emotions aren’t a thing you can turn on and off at will, and repressing to the point that it becomes sort of possible is very unhealthy. I’d like to see the rhetoric change for future generations!

      Liked by 1 person

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