"The emotions do not deserve being put into opposition wth "intelligence". The emotions are themselves a higher order of intelligence." - O. Hobart Mowrer
In the Western world we have been taught that suppressing difficult or negative emotions (think emotions we find troubling like anger, anxiety, fear or shame) is effective, or a fundamental strategy for getting along in life.
Why would we want to do that? How we deal with our inner emotional world influences how we live, love and lead.
Why are emotions important?
Emotions are our 'inner radar' system, essential to our survival, they are designed to rapidly alert us to situations that may impact our wellbeing.
Emotions are designed to help us thrive and survive. They prepare and guide us to take action towards meeting our needs. We need to be emotionally agile not rigid.
When are emotions not helpful?
Emotions become destructive, impacting our wellbeing when we:
- cling to them, dredging up old business
- expend energy trying to shut them down or push them away
- operate on autopilot, without true awareness or volition, confusing our present perceptions with past experiences.
To navigate the complex landscape of life, we need emotional courage and agility. We need tools and techniques to enable us to:
- recognise our thinking traps, how we create suffering
- learn how to 'turn towards' emotions, and anchor them in the body
- engage with difficult emotions, naming or labelling them - finding words for feeling has the potential to deactivate the stress response and calm the brain
- respond to ourselves with compassion or loving-kindness.
We need presence, not perfection to navigate life with a greater sense of wellbeing, meaning and purpose.
What to know more? I recommend the following resources:
The gift and power of emotional courage, by Susan David
Self Compassion, by Kristin Neff
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Dr Christopher Germer