Here at the Phoenix Counseling Collective, we believe that emotions (what some call “feelings”) are important for a number of reasons. This post will explore the territory of what emotions are.
the language of the body.
the currency of experientially knowing and being known.
what connect us to ourselves, other people and the world around us.
what sets us apart from every other creature.
That is much beauty all wrapped up in the idea of emotions. Let’s begin to explore these ideas together.
Your body has a ton of knowledge that you may not even be aware of, but you can access. Emotions are stored and felt in the bodies, often times unconsciously. The language your body often uses to let you know important information is emotions. Once we get to know this language of emotions, then we understand what our body is trying to tell us and then we can use that information to make better decisions.
If we didn’t have emotions, then we would be missing out on an entire stream of information that is accessible to us.
Once we understand the language of emotions, it gives us the opportunity to know that language in another. Emotions give us the sense that we are seen, and connect us to be able to access the environment around us. They are a primary lens that we see and make sense of what is going on around us. Consequently, strong painful or joyous emotions make an imprint on our minds because they help shape our existential experience of an event. Our memory is intimately connected with the emotional sensations that we have along with it and the stronger the emotion, the stronger the memory. (However, sometimes the memory is so painful that our mind protects us by “forgetting” at a conscious level that something has happened.)
Because emotions are naturally short term and vary throughout the day, when we are tuned into our emotional responses we begin to see how moment to moment experiences influence us. This provides us greater insight into our values, motivations, and worldview. Additionally, because we do not live within a vacuum our perception of events are largely impacted by our history. By having the opportunity to notice our emotional experiences we begin to recognize the why behind the way are behaving or responding to various stimulus. Often times it points to another time in our life that we have felt similar. Emotions have context within not only our current situation, but also our individual stories. For example, how we feel about sadness has to do with how we learned (or didn’t learn) to name sadness. And what we do with the sadness is based on what we did with sadness when we were 6 months and 4 years old and 16 years old. All these ways of navigating, avoiding, or being overwhelmed by an emotion effects what we do with our emotions as an adult.
When it comes to interpersonal relationships, emotions are the key that unlocks connection with others. Our emotions are expressed in our tone, facial expressions, and body language. They allow us to be understood by others and allow us to understand them. They move us from being robots, into people who create an interactional process that defies math. It provides context and ability to be better known by others. Emotions connect us with others. They allow us to connect in deep and meaningful ways and help us bond in a much deeper way than other species. When someone cries and feels sad, we may cry and feel sad with them. To experience emotions with someone is deeply connecting and helps us know that we are not alone.
There is not another species on the planet that can experience the intensity and expressiveness of emotions like humans can. In fact, to deny our emotional depth is to deny a part of what makes us fully human. Emotions are something that happens in our bodies when we experience something meaningful. For instance, when we hear about someone losing a job or a boyfriend or girlfriend, we may will literally experience in our body our heart drop, tears well up in our eyes, or simply a heaviness in our shoulders. These are indicators that something big and meaningful has happened. We don’t experience emotion when something is small or meaningless and therefore when we feel and notice emotions (such as sadness, joy, fear, shame, pain, hurt, or anger) we should pause and be willing to notice what is happening in the moment. Emotions tell us that something meaningful is happening and if we don’t slow down, we might miss something.
Emotions are what we are feeling. They inform us of how we are responding to our surroundings and others. Our emotional states are not random and they can give us much insight into what’s happening within our minds and bodies.
Take a moment to tune in to yours- right now.
What are you feeling?
If you’d like to come in and talk to us about it, or if you have trouble sorting out your emotions, please contact us.
The Phoenix Counseling Collective Team