One of the most powerful questions you can ask is:
How do I feel?
When you know how you feel — your emotions — you get valuable information about what you need and what you want. And knowing what you desire is the foundation for everything you want to experience, create, and manifest in the future.
There are many definitions of emotions. Here are a few of my favorites:
- a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others;
- instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge;
- a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.
Emotions can, and do, derive from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others (the first definition).
However, the most powerful predictor of your emotions are your thoughts.
If you live with an habitual thought like “nothing good ever happens for me,” or “other people don’t like me,” you will feel pain or fear or anger, regardless of your circumstances — and even your relationship status.
The eight basic emotions are anger, fear, pain, joy, love, guilt, shame, and passion.
Emotions provide information to us about our internal state. There are no good or bad emotions; however, the “positive” emotions of joy, love, and passion are considered more desirable than the “negative” emotions of anger, fear, pain, guilt, or shame.
Most women are particularly attuned to their emotional landscape and express emotions freely, and that is why communication between men and women is often fraught with frustration because men tend to be more focused on facts, data, and ideas.
The expression of emotions can be healthy or unhealthy, skillful or unskillful. For example, rage is an unhealthy expression of anger, and terror is an unhealthy expression of fear. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel rage or terror, but it does mean we need to pay special attention to these outsized experiences of the basic emotions.
Emotions need to circulate, so that they do not get “stuck.”
Just as your blood needs to circulate in your body for you to stay in good health, emotions need to circulate and be processed in your consciousness.
In relationships, the more we can express vulnerable emotions like pain or sadness or fear, the more connected our communication will be. Leading with anger is often an immediate communication stopper that pushes the other person away — consciously or unconsciously.
Most of us have one or more “go-to” emotions. A go-to emotion is the one lurking just below the surface, ready to manifest at a moment’s notice. If we have a longstanding pattern of expressing this emotion, we will unconsciously look for an opportunity to express it. For many people, their go-to emotion is anger — which creates an endless series of negative reactions to the inconveniences and irritations of everyday life.
If you tend to lead with anger, there are probably more vulnerable emotions that your anger is covering. Anger feels powerful in the moment, so it can be challenging to be curious or to admit that just underneath your anger you are feeling hurt, sad, or afraid.
The pay-off of going deeper to excavate more vulnerable emotions is your self-awareness and capacity to experience more intimacy by being authentic with yourself and others.
What emotions come easily and naturally to you?
What emotions were allowed in your family growing up? Which were not?
What emotion would you like to cultivate and grow?
I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Vicki Tidwell Palmer © 2020
I think my go to emotion is probably sadness. Maybe some fear and shame underneath it.
I would love to be able to express my anger instead of becoming sad.
My mother was very emotional and when she was angry, (probably out of shame and disappointment) everyone knew it and you had to tip toe around her. I guess as a child that was fear inducing. I am the opposite and don’t express my anger. As an adult I think I tolerate bad behavior in others because of this.
Emotions that come naturally – I was going to answer joy and sadness but I don’t even see sadness listed in the 8 emotions… I guess that sadness is from pain, shame and fear but I feel that all as sadness
Emotions allowed – none. My family likes to be flat-lined. Not too happy (you will be mocked) and not too sad (no one interacted with you until you turned your sad face to glad)
Emotions I would like to cultivate – passion (I often do not know what I want or feel), love (what felt like love before does not and now I don’t feel a lot of love) and anger (I think I must be very afraid to express anger because it is rare)