Often we think we have a good hold over our emotions and how to best approach and deal with them. Below, we chat with Dr. Andrew Powell about the question, are our emotions ‘good’ or ‘bad’, how we can aim to deal with these feelings and why having a conversation with them is so important.
Andrew starts off by stating, “I think the biggest problem we have is that we simply haven’t been trained on how to deal with our emotions.” He goes on to explain that from a young age, expressing our emotions and being vulnerable is generally not explored to a large extent. Instead, there is the encouragement to show a brave face which becomes the norm. He explains, ‘avoiding our emotions to a certain extent, seeing it in our families, schools and workplaces have been the norm for so long.’ This leads to us not properly dealing with our emotions, leading to more difficult, suppressed problems.
We generally have a ‘quick fix’ and ‘avoidant’ society when it comes to emotions and pains. Most of our medical system is built on the model that if we have physical pain, we take some medication to try and fix it as quickly as possible. On top of that, we are incredibly creative in setting our lives up in a way that we don’t have to experience those more ‘uncomfortable emotions’ such as heartbreak or financial worries. But Dr. Andrew stated, ‘inherently we need to realise that emotions are neither good nor bad, they are just feedback. They are telling us something.’
Naturally, our society then uses vices or activities to suppress these emotions, to try to not feel them. This may include alcohol, food or simply just ‘being busy’ by filling your time to distract from the things that you may not want to feel. Some things may look healthy, such as going to the gym for a few hours every day, but the reality is quite different. When using these things to avoid a particular ongoing negative emotion, it is dysfunctional and unhealthy.
The key to noticing if a feeling has become dysfunctional or is impacting you to a far worse extent is understanding what your emotions are and what they might mean. We are not victims to our emotions and we need to remember that. As stated above, our emotions are just feedback. Sometimes they come from our body, such as the gut and brain connection, but sometimes it can come from our lifestyle and daily situations. For example, you may be angry about the way your boss talks to you at work, but you don’t think you can address it, so it is then suppressed and it comes out at home when talking to your partner. This is when we really need to acknowledge the emotion and then start to ask ourselves the following important questions. Questions like, ‘Why am I feeling this way?’, ‘Why did that particular situation affect me so much?’, ’What is that emotion telling me?’ and ‘Do I need to communicate with someone?’
Instead of suppressing the emotions, we should ‘talk to them’ and actually listen. This will make us overall more functional and emotionally-intelligent humans. It is also important in doing this, to give yourself time and space to actually have these conversations and moments with yourself.
Our lives are so busy that we often don’t create this space, with constant stimulation and distraction present. It could simply be 5 minutes at the end of the day without scrolling on your phone to really think to yourself and have what Dr. Andrew Powell calls an ‘emotional detox’. Dr. Andrew says every day before he goes home to his family after a day at work he simply sits and observes how he is feeling, what he can feel himself holding onto from clients he has seen that day and then does some breathing exercises and does a review of how the day went. After this, you can consciously choose to let it go before entering your personal space at home.
On top of that, another perfect place to do an emotional review and reflection of the day is by going on a walk in the fresh air without a phone, music or a podcast. This is particularly important for those who are working from home, who may not be able to separate their work and home life. Listening and understanding your emotions to the best of your ability is an incredible way to really deal with common day-to-day emotional stress, both big and small.
To read our two other blogs with Dr Andrew Powell, ‘What is chemical stress and how does it impact us?’ and ‘What is structural stress?’
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