In this podcast (episode #352) and blog, I talk about how our emotions can affect our relationships and how we can learn how to express our emotions while being mindful of the other people in our lives.
First, it is important to explain what an emotion is. Every moment of every day, you are thinking, feeling and choosing. This happens in response to what you experience while awake. This activity builds actual physical thoughts inside the brain, and impacts your body, down to the level of your cells, as well as the gravitational fields in your mind.
These thoughts kind of look like “trees” in the mind. The branches of these trees contain the product of your thinking, feeling and choosing (your mind in action). Emotions are like “leaves” of these trees; they have a physical and chemical structure in the brain. A product of the activity of the mind is emotions. When we think, feel and choose, we experience emotion. Every thought has emotional information attached to it—this is an intrinsic part of being human. So, every thought has emotions as part of its structure, which are stored in the nonconscious mind. When thoughts move into the conscious mind, we feel the emotions of them.
Every human has emotions and every human is affected by emotions. We use emotions to understand each other, and we use emotions to understand ourselves. And we all experience emotions and feelings in different ways under different circumstances—they can keep changing even in the space of one day or hour. We can actually mirror other people’s emotions and experiences if we’re paying attention to them. If other people are happy, for instance, and we focus on them, our brain will reflect their happiness.
Emotions also help us survive. For instance, the experience of fear teaches us to react quickly in dangerous situations. It activates our limbic system and the “fight or flight” response so that we protect ourselves from imminent threats. Love helps us form communities and connect with each other, which, for humans, is also another survival technique. We have a better chance of surviving and growing together than we do alone.
In fact, when we express our emotions, especially when we tell others how we feel, we can grow, learn and help each other. This is why it is extremely important to be open about how we feel; we should not be afraid to express our sadness, anger, pain, confusion, or any emotion we experience. Denying the existence of the emotions or thoughts is a defense mechanism that may help us avoid discomfort for a short period of time, but it doesn’t promote healing, and can ultimately take us to a breaking point in our lives and our relationships.
This is also the reason I encourage people to go to therapy or speak to people they trust when they feel overwhelmed. That’s why I created my mind management technique called the Neurocycle (which I talk about in detail in my book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and app Neurocycle), so that people can learn how to understand and manage their emotions and figure out how to live in this world with all their feelings.
The thing we must remember is that when we express emotions, we are not just doing so in a vacuum. Our emotions have an effect; they have substance and they have impact.
As humans, we are deeply connected to the people we have a relationship with. This is known as entanglement in quantum physics. Our choices and decisions go beyond ourselves—they also impact the world, especially the people we surround ourselves with.
Emotions are so powerful that even strangers can affect each other. Just think about how a rude interaction with a waiter can greatly impact your mood while eating. If a stranger can affect us in such a significant way, then we certainly can impact the people we have close ties to, such as our friends, partners, and family members.
Indeed, emotions can be contagious. As briefly mentioned above, researchers have found that we tend to mirror or mimic the emotions of those around us. If someone is incredibly anxious, and is expressing it in words, body language, tone of voice or facial gestures, we may start feeling anxious ourselves by simply being around that person. The actual scientific term for this situation is “emotional contagion” (EC).
We need to understand that how someone feels can impact us, AND how we feel can impact someone else. It is not always bad to feel other people’s emotions; as mentioned above, it can be a way to connect, learn and grow. This is how we as humans can cooperate and grow together and learn how to support each other. When this “contagion” is negative, however, and increases the stress in our lives, it can be damaging mentally and physically.
You should be curious about your emotions and their impact. Express your emotions, don’t suppress them, but also be mindful of the other people in your life, and how your emotions may affect them—this is part of the process of developing empathy for the people you love.
The awareness of emotions and how to manage and express them is referred to as emotional intelligence. This includes understanding how to communicate your emotions, how to develop empathy and compassion, as well as understanding the impact of your emotions and how to set personal boundaries. In fact, tuning in to your emotions is part of the self-regulation process, which is essential to a mind-management lifestyle.
Your emotions will impact how you decide to behave and they can end up controlling you and impacting your relationships if you don’t learn how to regulate them and express them in healthy ways. You can start doing this by:
1. Embracing and accepting the fact that you feel a certain way. Don’t suppress your emotions or feel guilty for them. Recognize that these emotions will pass. They don’t have to define you!
2. Asking yourself questions in the moment, such as “What am I feeling? Where does this emotion come from?”.When the thought is recalled, the informational memory (what happened, or the facts), emotions (feelings), and physical sensations (flu-like symptoms, sore stomach, and so on) come flooding back. What is all this data telling you about yourself, or about what is going on in your life?
When you can grasp your own emotions and their root(s), you can understand more fully what you are trying to communicate or express to the other people in your life. Indeed, we are often so confused about our emotions and may not be able to put a name on what we are feeling. Sometimes, we may even need to speak to someone we trust or a mental health professional to begin to understand how we feel and why. But the key is asking ourselves these kinds of questions and trying to grasp a way of conceptualizing our feelings before just unloading them onto the people in our lives.
3. Remembering your body language. What we think and feel in our minds is often communicated in what we say AND our body language. In fact, it is estimated that non-verbal communication accounts for around 50% of our communication as humans. This means that expressing emotions doesn’t just happen verbally—you also need to be aware of how your emotions affect your body language, such as avoiding eye contact, moving away from someone, crossing our arms, and so on, and how this can impact the people in your life.
4. Working on the way you talk to yourself. One way to improve your emotional expression is to work on your positive self-talk. If we are constantly thinking in negative patterns and expressing how we feel with negative self -talk, the way we communicate our emotions to others can also have a negative impact on our relationships.
Learn how to give yourself grace and compassion. You will find that this not only helps you feel better, but will also help you communicate your emotions better. Listen to my podcast on the inner critic for more on how to deal with this.
5. Checking your state of mind before you share how you feel. One of the biggest ways to avoid impacting others in a negative way when expressing your emotions is to make sure you are in a good state of mind when you communicate how you feel. For example, if you haven’t slept the whole night and feel emotional, you might say things you don’t actually mean, and they will probably be pretty hurtful to the person you are communicating with, so it may be a good idea to rest before you open up to someone.
This also means understanding your triggers! If you are in a space where you feel triggered, expressing your emotions can sometimes lead to more pain; you might be so triggered that your emotions come out in anger, sadness or aggression. Learn your triggers by paying attention to how different people and places affect your emotions. This can be done by keeping track of your emotions and the reasons why you feel the way you do in certain situations. (The Neurocycle is a great way to do this, as it only requires a few minutes a day to make emotional awareness a habit!)
6. Having empathy and compassion and recognizing that everyone is struggling. Knowing that some of the feelings we have are felt by others as well can help us to share those feelings in a way that won’t trigger others. For example, you may be struggling with self-hate, and if you talk for ages about how you hate yourself to someone else, that may trigger their feelings of self-hate in a negative way. However, if you recognize that they too may be struggling with these feelings, then you may adjust how to communicate your emotions in a way that helps them feel like they can also share what they have been going through. Recognizing that all humans struggle will help you express how you feel in a productive way.
7. Listening. One of best ways to have more compassion and empathy is by listening to other people. Taking time to listen to and try to help others can completely transform the way you feel and express your emotions. First, you won’t feel so alone in your struggles. By listening more, you are bound to recognize some of the feelings you struggle with are also things other people in your life struggle with. You may also find that by helping others, you will feel better yourself. There is a lot of research out there that shows how when we help others, we also improve our own chances of healing.
8. Practicing forgiveness. If you are angry at someone or even yourself, the way that you express your emotions can be clouded by that anger or pain. As a result, everything that you express or share may be a lot more negative, and most likely make your relationships worse.
For more on managing emotions, listen to my podcast (episode #352). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
You can now also join me on Patreon for exclusive, ad-free content! Sign up for a membership level that suits you, and receive access to ad-free exclusive bonus podcasts. These episodes will include more targeted, step-by-step guides for specific mental health issues AND some fun, more personal podcasts about topics like my favorite skincare products and favorite books, as well as live Q&As, fan polls and requests, and exclusive digital downloads!
This podcast is sponsored by:
Athletic Greens. With ONE, delicious scoop of Athletic Greens, you’re absorbing 75 high-quality vitamins, minerals, whole-food sourced superfoods, probiotics, and adaptogens to help you start your day right. This special blend of ingredients supports your brain, your gut health, your nervous system, your immune system, your energy, recovery, focus, and aging. All the things! To make it easy, Athletic Greens is going to give you a FREE 1 year supply of immune-supporting Vitamin D AND 5 FREE travel packs with your first purchase. All you have to do is visit athleticgreens.com/leaf to take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance!
The Jordan Harbinger Show. The average podcast listener has 6 shows in rotation, so you’re most likely not just listening to my podcast Cleaning Up the Mental Mess—and that’s totally okay! As I always say, the more we learn, the healthier & happier our brain is! And I’d love to share a podcast to add to your learning list: The Jordan Harbinger show, a top shelf podcast named best of Apple in 2018! It is one of my all-time favorite shows, and I know you will love it too! Jordan dives into the minds of fascinating people—from athletes, authors and scientists to mobsters, spies and hostage negotiators. Harbinger has an undeniable talent for getting his guests to share never-been-heard-before stories and thought-provoking insights. Without fail, he pulls out tactical bits of wisdom in each episode— all with the noble cause to make you a more informed, critical thinker to better operate in today’s world. You can’t go wrong with adding The Jordan Harbinger Show to your rotation. It’s incredibly interesting, there’s never a dull show. Search for The Jordan Harbinger Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, or visit jordanharbinger.com/start.
3:30, 19:00 What an emotion is & what it isn't
14:30 What happens when we express emotions
15:30 How unmanaged emotions affect our health & quality of life
16:20 Emotions are not illnesses
17:00 How to express emotions in a healthy way
23:00, 31:15 How our emotions can impact other people & how to manage this impact
34:30 How to develop your emotional intelligence
41:20 The power of listening
43:00 Why we all need forgiveness
This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.