Making Sense of Emotions

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What if someone told you that everything you think about emotions is wrong? As people, we like categories. Categories help us make sense of the world around us and ourselves. In an effort to help understand ourselves, we place emotions into such categories. 

Often, people will discuss negative and positive emotions. What if there are no good or bad emotions? When you focus on something being negative or positive, then you are more likely to focus on the positive aspects than the negative. This could lead to behaviors that could be damaging, causing individuals to withdraw when emotions are not considered positive. When you feel happy, you may feel social and want to spend time with people around you. When you are excited you are eager to share. However, what happens when you’re sad or jealous? Do you share those emotions with others, do you allow yourself to explore how the emotions feel in your body, or do you suppress them? 

Emotions are an important communication tool that the body can use, interpreting the world around us through our nervous systems. Emotions effect a person's heartbeat, increases your hormones, and can tell your body to release neurotransmitters. What happens to a person’s body when they are constantly trying to suppress “negative” emotions and avoid the messages they are receiving from their nervous system? This can lead to anxiety, depression, panic, and somatic symptoms. 

Maybe we need to shift from emotional categories to a focus on emotional intelligence. What if anger is a guide to understanding what you value in a relationship? What if anxiety can motivate you to prepare for an exam? What if guilt can help you understand where your morals really are? How would you change if you could believe that all emotions can have positive effects and are necessary? 

Laurel Backing, MA, LLC

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