In this podcast (episode #480) and blog, I talk about why falling in love with your emotions is one of the best things you can do to improve your mental health!
As you have heard me say many times before, we cannot run from or suppress our emotions. We need to get comfortable with feeling - even the emotions that don’t make us feel so great in the moment. We need to be okay with saying things like “I feel sad” or “I feel anxious”.
Facing and embracing our emotions is like a deep cleanse, a truly cathartic moment. To feel is to be truly alive because our emotions are real things. They have consciousness—a tangible physical and biochemical presence. And, try as you might, they aren’t going away anytime soon, and will “explode” unless faced, processed and reconceptualized.
I would even go one step further: we need to fall in love with our emotions, because they are a part of us and help us learn and move forward. They are invitations to look inward, to sit with how we feel, and to listen to what they are trying to tell us about ourselves. Emotions are a gift—they give us the opportunity to gain priceless wisdom that will help us heal and grow.
We should never feel ashamed for having emotions. They are normal human reactions to what is going on in our lives. They are descriptions and invitations to explore, not signs that something is wrong with us.
But we also cannot just let our emotions rule us. Our feelings are signals that we need to tune into and self-regulate—this is how we learn, grow and heal. When we see our emotions as signs to look inward and explore, we help shift our brain and body from toxic stress into healthy stress. This, in turn, will better help us process how we feel in the moment, and remind us that emotions are amazing (the good, the bad and the ugly!), because they tell us about who we are and what we are going through.
When we fall in love with our emotions, we are empowered to see them as messengers that give us unique insight into who we are. This doesn’t mean that how we feel will magically go away, or that we must always like how we feel. Emotions are complex and can be hard to manage—this is okay! Like love between people, things can get messy or complicated. However, when we go through this mess, this complexity, we are better able to recognize them as signals that alert us to protect us. Our emotions are trying to give us information about ourselves to help us manage the ups and downs of life and overcome what we are struggling with.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but one great way to examine your emotions is to use what I call the emotional signal guide. This starts with understanding the signals that the mind, brain, and body send us when we are going through something. There are four main signals: your emotions, your behaviors, your physical symptoms, and your perspective/outlook. Some examples are:
- Feelings of irritability and/or hopelessness (an emotional warning signal)
- Ignoring calls, texts or emails (a behavioral warning signal)
- The world feels more negative (a perspective warning signal)
- Muscle aches and/or pains (a physical warning signal)
When it comes to our emotional warning signals, we all experience feelings in different ways under different circumstances. They can keep changing even in the space of one day or hour!
It is important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with you if you feel you’re “exploding” with emotions! You’re simply experiencing something that needs urgent attention.
Here is a short guide to help you if you feel like you are struggling to make sense of your emotional warning signals, which can be confusing:
Today, I feel . . .
1–3 Average. I have normal ups and downs as I go through life with all its challenges as a human in a complex world.
4–6 A hovering or floating anxiety and/or depression, worry, frustration, or toxic stress. I have that nagging angst that something is wrong, but I haven't quite pinpointed what yet. I understand it is more persistent because it often comes from stuff I have been suppressing just below the surface of my conscious awareness.
7–10 An increasing anxiety and/or depression that comes with not facing and dealing with my stuff. I recognize this often explodes in different areas of my life.
Here are some words to help guide you as you think about what emotional level you are on:
Today, I feel . . .
affection, anger, angst, anguish, annoyance, anxiety, apathy, arousal, awe, boredom, confidence, contempt, contentment, courage, curiosity, depression, desire, despair, disappointment, disgust, distrust, dread, ecstasy, embarrassment, envy, euphoria, excitement, fear, frustration, gratitude, grief, guilt, happiness, hatred, hope, horror, hostility, hurt, hysteria, indifference, interest, jealousy, joy, loathing, loneliness, love, lust, outrage, panic, passion, pity, pleasure, pride, rage, regret, relief, remorse, sadness, satisfaction, self-confidence, shame, shock, shyness, sorrow, suffering, surprise, terror, trust, wonder, worry, zeal, zest.
Remember that these warning signals are invitations to look inward. If you can sit with them and listen to them, you have the opportunity to gain priceless information that will help with your healing. So, when you are ready, write down how you are feeling (your signals) as short statements. Next, ask yourself 3-4 “whys” (why you feel the way you do), answer them out loud, and write your answers down. For example:
What emotional signal do I feel? I feel frustrated in my relationship—I feel insecure. Why? Because I am battling to trust the other person. Why? Because I have a fear of rejection. Why? Because I was neglected as a child.
Write this down any way you wish to help you start organizing your thinking. Then, once you go through this exercise, you can start listening to what these emotional signals are telling you and work through how you feel to reconceptualize these thought patterns using a mind management system like the Neurocycle (see my app Neurocycle and my book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess). The goal is to learn how to listen to the nonconscious mind using your conscious mind, and then use what you have gathered to start changing how these thoughts are affecting your mental health and life.
For more on falling in love with your emotions, listen to my podcast (episode #480). 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!).
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0:45 Why we need to change the way we think about our emotions
1:20 What our emotions can tell us about ourselves
2:23 How we see our emotions can affect our mental health
6:15 What happens when we start falling in love with our emotions
7:50 Emotions are invitations to explore & get to know ourselves better
10:24 Why we need to become aware of how we feel
12:00 How to listen to what our emotions are telling us
17:50 Why we all need to fall in love with our emotions
19:00 How to identify & learn from your emotions
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are 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.