As I wrote in a previous article, feeling something does not necessarily mean it is true. It only means that we are currently feeling it, not that we can read our emotions correctly. More times than not we only apprehend their superficial or immediate meaning, confusing their message and reacting in an inappropiate way, totally disconnected from the real reasons why we are feeling these emotions. If you want to learn more about this before reading further, click here.
So, when we finally realize we need to dig a little deeper inside ourselves to find out what’s really going on in there, we take a very important step towards self-knowledge. For those of you who don’t like this word that much, I must tell you that ‘self-knowledge’ or ‘self-awareness’ is simply a synonym for ‘finally I’m going to find out the truth about myself, so I can purposedly navigate life screwing up as little as possible’. The more self-knowledge we gain, the better, as it is indeed the best compass we can rely on.
When we start digging a little deeper, we begin to realize that reading our own emotions is by no means an easy-to-master skill. But once we have graduated emotion-reading elementary school, we can then learn to observe them more attentively, and use them in a way they can inform us of important things we normally overlook, for different reasons. Mainly, because if we pay attention to those things, we would probably have no excuse to do half of the things we do. And we want to avoid that at all costs, even if it means doing things that hurt ourselves, or undermine our inner wellbeing.
But wait a minute. Why on earth would we intentionally do things that hurt or harm ourselves? Do we deliberately want to torment ourselves?
But just think about this: when do you remember
learning about how to avoid hurting or harming your deep self? Who taught you to take into consideration your emotional and mental wellbeing while growing up? Where did you hear that listening to your needs and establishing healthy bounderies was way more important than learning to make your bed or or studyting to pass an English test? Who ever mentioned to you that developing your own inner wisdom was much more loving than following your heart, especially when following your heart often meant potentially harmful situations or relationships?
So there you have the answer. We simply don’t know -haven’t been taught- how to NOT harm ourselves.
As a result, we get confused about what is good or bad for us, about what we want or we don’t want, about what we need or don’t need, or about what is good or bad for us. Consequently, we grow into adults who are unable to discern between our true needs and feelings, and our fake needs or neurotic cravings. And one of the reasons for being unable to discern all this is, precisely, our poor emotion-reading skills.
What we need to learn from emotions is, paradoxically enough, beyond emotions themselves.
I will not go into defining what an emotion is. Nowadays you can easily browse the web and find all kinds of definitions by all kinds of field experts. I will rather focus on what our emotions -I do take for granted we all feel emotions, with some exceptions- do to us, and how we can learn to use them as a compass, instead of constantly
trying to suppress the ones we don’t like, and desperately seeking the ones we crave.
As I mentioned in my previous article, the emotions we feel can be triggered by things that are not totally conscious to ourselves. So this means we are feeling all kinds of things throughout the day, many of which are read by us -or others- in the wrong way. But, what if we changed the way we read them?
LuisFer Cámara, director of the Hoffman Institute Spain
, says that when an emotional response is clearly excessive or inapropiate for the current situation, chances are that what we are feeling is stemming from a past situation that was traumatic for us, or emotionally intense.
Ok fine. But do I have to dig out all unresolved issues of my past history in order to be able to deal with this current situation? I definitely don’t want to do that right now!
I get it. It is of course a major decision to embark in a journey to discover what is REALLY happenning with your emotions, your relationships and your deep inner self. But if you don’t have the time, the inclination or the trust to do it, you can, at least, make the decision to pay great attention every time you feel an emotion. Any emotion. Because emotions gives us a lot of useful information:
1. We are being emotionally triggered by something that is happenning right now. We only need to pay attention to what that might be. If we manage to realize, at least minimally, that what is happening right now is not EXACTLY the origin of our emotions, we will have taken a very important first step.
2. The stronger our emotional response is, the more likely it is that we have unconscously linked that situation with another one belonging to our distant
past, unrelated to this one but somehow similar. Despite not knowing what it is and unable to discover it just now, we can, at least, be open to the possibility that our boss’s harsh reply, our child’s defiant attitude, or our lover’s cold response are NOT the only events responsible for how we are feeling right now.
3. We are almost certainly fighting what we are feeling, simply because we don’t like it and don’t want to feel it. This makes the process even more difficult, because we automatically set in motion a series of chain reactions that are based on what we believe has triggered those emotions, and on our attempts to stop feeling them. Almost certainly, these reactions are also erroneous or inappropriate, because they do not entirely correspond to what triggered our emotional state in the first place.
4.Realizing this may help us question many of the beliefs we cherish about the present situation, about ourselves, about our relationships, and about the number of unresolved knots we have been dragging around since time immemorial. But, above all, it may help us to stop blaming everything and everyone out there for how we feel. And this is key, because we can begin to discover ways to listen to our needs, set healthy boundaries, and develop our inner wisdom.
Ok, then let’s assume that, despite all of the above, you are still unwilling to delve into your forgotten experience of being a child, and the hurts that were left unresolved. Or you just refuse to stop blaming others for your issues because, if you give that up too, what are you left with?
Well, we can explore a different path until you change your mind, if you ever actually do so: you can go into the space beyond – or above – the emotions you are currently feeling. This space is occupied by the messages we send ourselves through emotions, messages that determine what we feel even more than the present situation. But, where do these messages come from?
From our thoughts, of course.
Think hard. Where did you ever learn that thoughts can turn into a weapon of mass self-destruction?
If you want to learn more, stay tuned for my next article!