The Wisdom of Your Emotions
A close friend of mine likes to categorize people he knows as being “rational” or “emotional”, as if there are only two kinds of possibilities to be. Being “emotional”, in his understanding and experience of life, is a bad thing. On the other hand, to be “rational” is to be in control, coolheaded 007-like, and masterful in how you respond to heated situations. Is this really a helpful way to look at people? What happens when we think of ourselves and others as being either “this” or “that”?
Emotions can be scary. In fact, they are simply because of their ability to overwhelm us. All rationality is lost and that has its own grave consequences. An overwhelm of emotions can be a wonderful thing too. Don’t you want to feel an overwhelm of gratitude and ecstasy? What about an overwhelm of optimism and hope? Thus is the love-hate relationship we have with our emotions where most of us unconsciously chooses to allow our emotions to take charge of our behavior or we pretend to be an 100-percent rational person who shall not be swayed by his emotions under any condition.
Many of my clients have basic questions about how to overcome the anguish and pain their emotions cause them. I am therefore writing this article as a dedication to all of the people I have had the honor to support, as well as those with whom I may never cross paths but who nonetheless have the same types of questions that I hear my clients raise regularly.
While mindfulness experts want to help us to regulate our emotions, I want to point to the wisdom of your emotions. If wisdom is life- and time-tested knowledge which activates our capacity to be in harmony with our life situation, the people in our lives, and all of life on earth, then the wisdom of your emotions are here to show you how close, or far from, you are from your true nature.
What do I mean by the above? Say you are feeling like crap after what you thought was a poor presentation at an important client meeting. The “feeling like crap” feeling can be received as something to get rid of, or it can be welcomed as a message from your self. The road of avoidance leads us to distract ourselves from this feeling by watching the news, talking to a friend about something completely unrelated, or eating or drinking something to help us elevate our mood. Seeing our emotions as a message to be welcomed means you allow a part of you to be neutral towards the emotions that arise. It means you allow yourself, at least in part, to be open to the possibility that the message you are receiving might be useful. A state of mind such as this makes it possible for you to ask the simple question of “what I am supposed to learn from this emotion?”
In the example of feeling bad after a disappointing meeting with a client, your decision to take a moment to activate a psychological and spiritual center in order to reflect calmly in spite of the torrent of bad feelings places you in the eye of the emotional hurricane, where there is peace. Your centering practices, such as being in silence or conscious breathing, can bring to your awareness once again that perhaps a part of your self-worth is still dependent on your hopes for career success and how your peers view you. Your overly active and unjustified self-criticisms can be revealed for what it is. These unvarnished observations can then become the springboard from which you may launch your question of “what to do now about these unhelpful perspectives and habitual way of thinking?”
Behind every emotion is a thought that are mutually reinforcing. For example, the “feeling bad” might be supported by the thought “I am crap.” Discovering the thought that is associated with the feeling-emotion of the moment is a key step in the process of discerning the wisdom of your emotions. Based on the discovery made, you come to a critical juncture at which your act of will may be exercised. Choosing which thought of yours to value is an essential practice for (re)shaping your reality.
The wisdom of your emotions plays an essential role as such by giving you the opportunity to approach the invisible sandstorm that is obscuring the truth of your inner light. Practices for regulating our emotions are great. Being emotionally intelligent in order to improve our performance at work or in our personal relationships are also beneficial. The wisdom of your emotions, however, can take you even further than these respectable aims. Emotions liberate us by asking us to live in the moment, where we have complete freedom and harmony with the totality of life.