Your emotions are like your body’s internal guidance system, they give you valuable information and feedback on how you are reacting to your surroundings. Each emotion is an appropriate response to the situation in which you find yourself. And while it is natural to want to move up the scale, try not to beat yourself up if you are feeling the so called lower emotions. Having such a powerful navigational tool is a gift, your emotions are giving you a very precise indicator of where you are. Think of the more negative emotions as an alarm signalling “Off course! Off course!” And while you may not always like where you are, it’s a sight better than being completely lost. By listening to your emotions, you always have a compass, or if you prefer a more modern analogy, your own built in GPS. And if where you are is not working out for you, you can decide if you want to stay there or set out on a different course.
Where are you on the emotional scale? There is no wrong answer.
You may be surprised to see that anger is much higher up the scale than depression, fear and grief. Fear, grief and depression can hold people in a state of emotional paralysis which can make someone stuck, and unable to move upwards. Anger on the other hand is movement of energy, and can actually motivate action of some kind. However, we are often very uncomfortable with other people’s anger, and while this is understandable, by shaming someone or making them feel guilty for expressing their anger, we inadvertently push them back down the emotional scale. This is why someone who is depressed might flip flop back and forth between anger and depression, for as soon as they start to express some anger they (or someone else) freaks out and they retreat back to anger again.
However no one wants to feel angry all the time. It is your birthright to feel good and be happy, so learning to coax yourself up the scale is a worthy practice. Now you don’t have have to jump from anger to joy in 10 seconds flat. (I don’t know too many adults who could do it without the addition of external substances). If I am coaching someone who is dealing with overwhelming anger, I try to help them find some relief and get to a place of mild irritation, and with a little more movement in a month they could be feeling hopeful. : ) Sounds funny but being hopeful in a month is better than angry for a year.
How do you do that? I will give some more practical tips in another post, but for now get in the habit of checking in with how you feel. Take a pause to acknowledge your emotion and notice where you feel it in your body. If you are not sure of the specific emotion, consult this scale or use what I call the emoto-meter, and rate how you are feeing on a scale of 1 to 10 (using 1 as the worst and 10 as the best you could feel). Listening to your emotions is the first stage of mindfulness training.
Our emotions are both the treasure map and the treasure. They point the way and are a reward in themselves. The distracted state of our culture is stealing from that, which is why I feel it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of their vital (and practical) importance. But perhaps the best case for being full present in our emotions is how good it feels when it’s good. When you think of the greatest moments in your life; the birth of a child, creating something, achieving a success, most likely you were fully present and awash in the feelings of joy and love.
Wishing you an abundance of joy and love,