This morning I was listening to a fascinating podcast about the many, many more emotions that exist in other primates like monkeys, apes, and lemurs for example, than scientists ever thought existed. Emotions like disgust, excitement, motivation, envy etc which hitherto now, were thought to be human traits only.
Looking around our group the other night, however, we were definitely the only primates in attendance and we wanted to develop a more authentic connection with our emotions.
For the most part, that took the form of us wanting to recognise our emotions and employing better control of them. Especially the unhealthy negative ones. Of course some negative emotions like outrage and anger can, in certain instances, be of use to us, propelling us to take positive remedial action where we might otherwise not.
But before we get to that stage, we need to become aware of how we are feeling and why we are feeling the way we are.
It is particularly important, because negative emotions have a very unhealthy outcome, both on our physical and mental health and well-being, as well on those around us. Negative emotions are like a power drain on our whole being. And it emanates, like a cancer, affecting all in our radius.
Which, when you look at what emotion is; energy in motion, this makes perfect sense. Emotions are the chemicals released in the body, as a result of triggers. And this all happens in the space of about half a second (quarter of a second to identify the trigger, and another quarter of a second to release the chemical).
Feelings on the other hand, are more cognitive. More thinking and feeling, as the chemicals are processed in our brains and bodies. It is the awareness in our mind of the energy.
And then we have Moods, which are more like a collection of inputs, heavily influenced by our environment, and can last minutes, hours or days.
Alan Watkins, Neuro Scientist and life-time human researcher says, from about the age 3-6 years old we develop a Conceptual Self Identity. We realise, that WE ARE. Then between 6-9 years, we realise that not only do we exist, we do so quite independently of everyone else, and we develop our Concrete Consciousness. Following on, as teenagers we begin testing the rules and creating conflict. Which is a very healthy state of affairs, despite how parents view it.
Unfortunately, following the teenage years, most of us revert back to the Concrete Conscious state and follow the rules for the remainder of our lives. Until, if we’re fortunate enough to have some major crisis in our lives (The Disease of Meaning), and we realise we’ve been following the rules all our life, and it hasn’t delivered our desired outcome. ‘I’m Not Happy’ we decide.
And after this self- diagnosis, we usually choose to handle the pain this realisation brings, with one of two strategies: Anaesthetically (drink or drugs), to blot it out, and, or Distraction with things like work, gym, sex, materialistic pursuits etc. None of these things work, because they’re outside of ourselves, when instead we need to look inside at our emotions and feelings and this journey starts with first of all, recognising which emotional planet we are on.
And yes, if like me you surmised there were probably about ten or twelve emotions you would also be surprised to learn that there are about 34,000 emotions in the human solar system, and that it is important for us to know where we are in that galaxy, to enable us to build a healthy emotional repertoire. Because if we can get ourselves to the positive side of that universe, we can stay there. Sure, we’ll still encounter negative emotions at times, but by objectifying those emotions we will be able to get a grip on them and in doing so, realise our life doesn’t have to be lived at the mercy of others, or the weather or whatever. We can transform our lives forever by being in control of our emotions.
Why? Because emotions predict your health, performance, well- being sense of fulfilment, efficacy in decision making, drive, you name it, your life!
How? For a start, NOT by burying emotions or feelings, but facing them head-on and accepting them as a part of you, the shadow side, allowing them to teach you what you need to learn from them, and learning to love yourself as a whole being. Love the light and the shadow of yourself. Because that’s what determines your true value in the coin of life.
So as part of caring for ourselves in a healthy way, we need to expand our awareness, to recognise the things that strengthen our emotional well-being and those that weaken it.
Briefly some of those that expand it are:
*Self-Love and Respect
*And many more
Things that weaken our emotional well-being:
*Lack of sleep and physical illness
*Family problems/social disadvantage/breakdowns
*Unresolved loss and grief
*Limited belief systems
*Shame. Rejection. Lack of appreciation
* Disrespect; Being ignored.
* Limited Consciousness.
And the list continues. Because both triggers, positive and negative, are personal things which apply to us individually. Often mine will look nothing like yours, and vice versa, but they are all the same, very real.
Which means we need to know what triggers our positive and negative emotions, identify them, and if necessary, deal with them, rather than suppressing them and then hurting ourselves and projecting them onto others. And in order to do this, we need self-clarity.
There are three steps to managing your emotions.
2. Self- Acceptance as a whole person
And an important part of that Self-Care is your self-acceptance and embracing both your positive and negative emotions.
As Carl Jung said ‘Everything that irritates us about others, can lead us to an understanding of ourselves’. This works just as well as a mirror of ourselves. Everything that Irritates me, about me, etc
Not that choosing to be authentic comes easy, or without consequences. It is often risky, scary and fraught with learning curves, but it is the truest way of honouring our heart and true selves.
It is far less painful in the end, than squeezing the life out of your heart by being inauthentic, compared to the joy of feeling real, and slowly allowing your heart to open and blossom on the vine of true authenticity.
Self-awareness, self-clarity and discernment are keys to managing your emotions in a healthy way. So come on, become more aware of how and why you feel the way you do. Face yourself with clarity, and remember that discernment allows us to think more integrally, rather than in the old paradigm, of either / or, as in judgemental thinking. Enjoy the thrill of choosing to be part of the process, rather than just allowing yourself to be blown hither and thither, as if you have no choice in the matter of how you travel through life. You do! The choice is yours. Yes, yours!
And in case you need any more encouragement to pick up the mantle that is blessedly yours, I’ll just leave you with this little secret…..I know without a doubt, that if the primates I mentioned earlier had this opportunity, they would leap at it! So, swing into it!