Contrary to popular belief, emotions are not negative. While this idea has been drummed into many of us from an early age, emotions are, in fact, evolutionary tools that alert us to the things that matter.
In “Trauma and the Body,” we are told that “Emotions add motivational coloring to cognitive processing and act as signals that direct us to notice and attend to particular cues. Emotions help us take adaptive action by calling attention to significant environmental events and stimuli (Krystal, 1978; van der Kolk, McFarlane, et al., 1996).”
Emotions Deliver Value
Society bears a lot of the blame for teaching us that being good citizens requires us to ignore our emotions and our bodies and to rule them with our mind. Unfortunately, this has led to many of us being cut off from valuable inner experiences that guide and protect us.
Women are frequently told that emotions are not leadership qualities, while men are taught that emotions are a sign of weakness. If emotions can teach us valuable lessons about life, then shouldn’t we consider them a source of knowledge?
Embracing Emotions as a Guide
While emotions can be a guiding light through life, we should not let them rule all of our actions. After all, we don’t run our lives just on what our bodily sensations and signals tell us. Balance requires that we consider our cognitive, emotional, and sensorimotor signals to make sound decisions and give us direction. These stimuli are called the “triune brain,” which is critical for optimal functioning.
Panksepp calls the information from the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing “affective knowledge” (Panskepp, 1998). All aspects of us are valuable, but it’s important to integrate them to achieve balance and direction.
What if we embraced all parts of ourselves as sources of valuable information, guidance, wisdom, and direction? Why have we historically dismissed the body and emotions as untrustworthy and misleading? Why do we feel afraid of them?
Perhaps it’s because we struggle to control them or because they operate independently of our conscious intentions. Whatever the reason, it’s time to reconsider our relationship with these essential aspects of our being.
Reclaim Your Emotional Intelligence
It may take some effort to reclaim these important but neglected aspects of ourselves. It will be challenging initially; we’ve been conditioned to consider emotions negative, untrustworthy, and misleading.
Don’t let the fear of the unfamiliar dissuade you from recapturing the gift that emotions can bring. They are there to guide and inform. Consider being more open and willing to listen.
Finding an experienced therapist can be a helpful way to learn more about your own emotions and how to utilize them for healing and guidance. Visit this page to learn more about getting started with counseling: Anxiety Treatment