Why emotions are important
The simple answer is that they are a part of our human experience and so have value. More complicatedly, they are often manifestations or expressions of our deep feelings; concerns, joys, fears and the like. This kind of manifestation of deeply felt experiences is important to understand in order to know who you are and why you are feeling the way that you are. Because, whether we would admit it or not, our emotions are often deeply entrenched in almost every aspect of our lives. A colleague of mine was fond of reminding clients that our “emotions drive the bus,” so to speak. And if they are driving the bus, we should probably learn a bit more about them and how they impact others. One obvious and important aspect of emotions is how they affect our communication.
How emotions affect communication
Seems obvious enough, right? Well, there is the clear and simple way that yelling at someone when you are angry can affect that conversation (not positively I might add). But our emotions, even the unacknowledged ones, can seriously impact the ways in which we speak to and interact with others. Have you ever asked someone how their day was, only to have them snap at you? Can you remember a time that you saw someone laughing and smiling even though there was nothing funny happening? The feelings that we feel come out, even if we don’t think about it. And the less we think about our emotions and why we feel that way, the stronger they can feel.
When emotions are too strong
The stronger the emotions, the more serious we should take them. Our emotional reactions are like a response to information coming from a deep part of ourselves that we often don’t monitor. And the emotions that we have often come from someplace deeper than we realize. The main top level emotions that we experience and express to ourselves and others often stem from a completely different emotional source. Have you ever been mad at someone who got a promotion instead of you? While you might actually be angry at that person, in reality you were likely experiencing some level of sadness at the loss of opportunity, fear that you really weren’t qualified, and/or a sense of powerlessness. You might act angry at your co-worker, but you might really just be sad and hurt and scared. Well, you might say, emotions are dumb then and I don’t want to have any. Or you might just want to clamp own on them so they do what you want. But it’s not really that simple.
Can emotions be controlled?
This is like asking if you can control the weather. Not really, but they can be anticipated and there are things you can do to minimize their negative impact when they do arise. If you see a storm cloud in the distance and feel the wind in a direction that will push that cloud over towards where you are, you can probably anticipate that rain is coming. There’s not much you can do to stop the rain from coming in the same way that simply willing it to be one way doesn’t stop emotions from happening. But like an approaching rainstorm, emotions can be prepared from and their effects mitigated or lessened. If I know a storm is coming and I have to be out and about, I will make sure to wear a raincoat or bring an umbrella. If I sense that my angry emotional response is on the metaphorical horizon I will engage in activities designed to minimize my exposure to that emotion, to kind of shield me from the rain so it won’t have as big an impact - like when I get hungry. I am a man who loves to eat. But when I don’t get the chance to have food at proper intervals I tend to turn into an angry bear. I get grouchy and mean and let my emotional state dictate how I interact with others. This isn’t healthy. So how could I control this emotional response? I could just pack snacks (which I often do), but when that isn’t feasible I try to remind myself what’s happening. I am not mad at my spouse or kids for whatever it is they are doing, I am actually just hungry and upset with myself that I forgot to plan ahead. Like our weather analogy, in this moment I see the storm coming and I forgot my raincoat or umbrella. So instead of raging at the sky, I try to remind myself that I won’t melt in a little bit of rain and that I’ll have time soon enough to metaphorically get out of the rain and dry off.
If you are dealing with emotions that run high, or feel too strong, or you aren’t really sure what emotion is at the root of what you are feeling please reach out, I’d love to help. 512-931-4801