We all have emotions, and all of our emotions serve a purpose. For our emotions may motivate actions, supply us with information or allow us to communicate our feelings to others. While emotions themselves are never right or wrong, what may be accurate or inaccurate are our interpretations of them.
Positive emotions such as happiness and joyfulness can inspire us and lead us forward to a better life. They can give us courage when we are afraid, direct us when we feel lost or show us what makes a real difference to our lives.
Negative emotions such as anger, sadness, fear and guilt are troubling and distressing. Yet even negative emotions have a positive side.
Anger relates to the boundaries we need to set for ourselves. Anger helps us learn when to say “Yes” and when to say “No”. It keeps us from getting trapped in unhealthy situations, and it helps us to know who and what we really like and dislike.
Sadness allows us to connect deeply with other people. It opens us up to love, revealing our vulnerability and our desires for lasting relationships. Sadness helps us connect with the spiritual realities that are important to us. It helps us stay in tune with our bodies and with our surroundings.
Fear can help us step back from a situation and look at it objectively. Fear can give us good advice about the present and allow us to create new opportunities for our future life.
And guilt originates from a perception that you have done something wrong. This guilty feeling leads to anxiety, putting more and more pressure on us. This anxiety comes from the feeling that something bad will happen. For example, you may have upset others or you may have judged someone harshly or you may feel ashamed of yourself. Guilt can lead to a loss of love, bring about a break in connections with others, and cause us to question whether we really are a good person.
In such situations our emotions can become overwhelming, so overwhelming that we become unable to manage them in healthy, effective ways. This is known as ‘emotion dysregulation’.
To regulate our emotions, we may begin by learning to recognise and acknowledge them. This is sometimes referred to as ‘name it to tame it’. This naming helps us to increase our awareness of how we experience our emotions and to get to know them better.
Next, we need to accept our emotions and thereby validate them. This self-validation can be soothing and may prevent additional emotional pain from arising.
In this way we can re-regulate or ‘get in touch with’ our true emotions rather than covering them up with anger or simply dismissing them. One way to do this is to stretch our arms up, bend forwards and take measured breaths (where our exhale is longer than our inhale). Such exercises can help to quieten loud emotions and allow us space to work out what to do next.
So why not try to get in touch with your emotions? You may be pleased, upset, or even surprised by what your emotions say to you. Whatever you find, it will help you to move forward with your life.