Meet therapist, coach and founder of Fundamental Health Lindsey Paoli, MFT-Intern.
Let’s talk about emotions. To be honest, I was going to teach you a great skill for communication today, but because you have to crawl before you walk, I realized that there are some basics that we’re going to have to master first—the Fundamentals (MIND Fundamentals—Movement, Intention, Nourishment and Deep Connection) if I may.
No Such Thing As Good or Bad Emotions
The fundamentals of mental health are always about first understanding ourselves as individuals. Emotions are a very important part of that understanding. Emotions are necessary and important messages that once felt effectively will lead to a corresponding necessary action.
Contrary to what you may have been taught as a child, there are no such things as good or bad emotions, but instead maybe comfortable and uncomfortable emotions. However, every emotion has purpose, and learning to identify and feel them is very important to overall wellness.
Get to Know Core Emotions
Our core emotions are usually listed as Happy, Sad, Angry, Fear, Disgust and Surprise. And from these core emotions, there are various other levels of those experienced emotions as indicated by this Emotion Wheel from Calm.com (which is an amazing app and resource for mental wellness activities).
The more specific you can be when identifying your emotion, the better. However, it’s equally important to understand what the core feeling is that your emotion stems from.
The Next Move
Emotions have evolutionarily helped us to identify the next necessary corresponding action to take. On very basic levels, when you feel fear, you know you must escape or fight a predator. If you feel love, you may want to establish your partnership and procreate.
Disgust may indicate poison and save you from eating something you shouldn’t. But on a day-to-day basis, emotions are still helpful in deciding your next move. For example, anger may be an indication that a boundary has been crossed, and you need to have a conversation.
In order to know the next appropriate move, we must be able to identify which emotion is arising for us. Emotions are not only experienced as thoughts but there are also physiological bodily responses that we experience to help us identify these emotions—which is why we also call them feelings.
Know Your Emotion
Becoming tearful is a typical response to sadness, and becoming hot or flushed commonly arises with anger. Because so many of us have been taught that there are good or bad emotions, we often try to ignore the bodily responses that feel uncomfortable and then do not follow through on the resulting necessary action.
This dismissal is not only unhelpful to us in the short term, but studies also are showing more and more that repressed or unprocessed emotion lowers immunity, creates illness and inflammation in the body and eventually manifests into physical forms of pain or disease.
Listen to Your Emotions
I tell my clients that emotions are like the dashboard indicator lights in your car: They are little reminders of what is going on internally—what needs more focus and what your next move should be. Eventually, if you ignore enough lights, you’re going to have a serious problem on your hands.
Fortunately, though, emotions (unlike that nonstop rattling in your engine) are temporary experiences, and the sooner you allow yourself to feel them, ride them out and identify what they are indicating your next action should be, the sooner you can move on. I like to say, “If you can feel it, you can deal with it.”
Keep all this in mind for next week because it’s going to be very important in learning how to effectively solve a conflict.