Mindful Monday: Mindfulness of Emotions

Abstract representation of feeling unpleasant emotions.

Abstract representation of feeling unpleasant emotions.

I’ve been feeling some things the last day or so. By things, I mean emotions. More uncomfortable emotions than I’d care to feel. There’s some good ol’ sadness, anger, and resentment mixed in with a bit of fear and regret. I’d rather not feel this way so there’s been some resistance to feeling them. Which is never helpful. But alas I’m as human as the next person, no matter how much I try to fight it. 

It’s really freaking hard to feel our emotions. Or at least the more uncomfortable ones. Although joy and love can be difficult for some too (We’ll get to that another time.). One, it doesn’t feel good and we do whatever we can to avoid pain. And two, we’re very poorly educated in our society about emotions. We’re often told some form of “Don’t feel that way,” over and over again until we shut it down. But those suckers just keep coming back. It’s like if someone’s running away from the Zombie Apocolypse and they knock on your door, but you don’t answer, they’re going to keep knocking until you do because it’s necessary for survival. 

Our emotions exist for survival purposes too. So if we ignore them, push them away, and don’t deal with them, they’re only going to become more intense. 

Why the heck is that?

Emotions motivate us to take action.

Sometimes our emotions tell us to throw leaves into the air.

Sometimes our emotions tell us to throw leaves into the air.

Each emotion has a biological, hard-wired action urge that gets us to do what we need to do in certain situations. They help us to act quickly when it’s important to do so and overcome the obstacle at hand. Without emotions we’d simply stay put when a lion comes charging at us on the Serengeti.

Emotions communicate important information to ourselves.

Emotions let us know something important is happening. It’s intuition. This sensation that we need to take a closer look into the situation at hand. That doesn’t mean that what we initially think is happening is actually what’s happening. It just means check the facts of the situation to see if they support that emotion or not. Simply acting on our emotions all the time will cause us more problems. For example, just because you feel afraid doesn’t mean there’s any actual danger. If you were to act on every impulse of fear, you might never do any of the things you want to do in life. 

Emotions help us communicate to others.

A significant part of our communication is nonverbal. Some believe as high as 93%, but that’s up for debate. Regardless, nonverbal communication is important and our emotions contribute to that. Going back to that biological hard-wiring, our facial expressions, voice tone, and other body language are hard-wired to our emotions, communicating information to others faster than we can speak. When it’s important to communicate to others, it’s very hard to change our emotions. Also, our emotions can influence others, which is important when trying to convince others of something. 

Now those are some important things emotions do for us. So start paying some hard core attention to your emotions, even if they’re unbearably uncomfortable. 

Well, how the heck do we do that?

Feel your emotions.

“Feelings” and “emotions” are actually two entirely different things even though we often use them interchangeably (Guilty as charged over here.). “Feelings” are the physical sensations we experience in our body that tell us something is going on, the pit in our stomach, tightness in our chest, increased temperature, etc. Emotions are words we’ve assigned to a collection of physical sensations to represent a larger experience. For instance, when you’re angry, your body temperature rises, your muscles tense, and there’s a tightness in the throat. Those sensations (feelings) are vital to letting us know exactly what emotion we’re experiencing. Which we need to know in order to take action based on it. 

Representation of when we allow ourselves to feel our emotions.

Representation of when we allow ourselves to feel our emotions.

Again, feeling uncomfortable emotions is tough. We’re willing to do pretty much anything to remain comfortable. That’s why it’s important to be present and make conscious decisions to feel what we’re feeling. Also, the best part is, if you can be fully present with those uncomfortable sensations, they’ll lessen and eventually go away. Your body can’t physiologically hold onto any sensation for more than approximately two minutes if you’re actually experiencing the sensation. If you’re pushing it away or getting into your head, thinking those good ol’ thoughts about a situation, you’ll actually keep those unpleasant sensations around much longer than is necessary to communicate to or motivate you. 

I spent the better part of yesterday avoiding emotions. Unfortunately, that only led to some poor choices, not handling certain situations as well as I could have had I chosen to be present. And I even thought about it. I literally thought, “If you just feel this crap, everything will turn out better.” But I protested instead and now today I’m left cleaning up the mess. Emotionally and in some ways physically. 

Perhaps mess is a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m not proud of how I handled my emotions yesterday. But today is a new day and today I decided to face them and feel them out, learning much along the way.

I learned that my fear isn’t actually warranted so I now need to face it head on. My anger told me that my boundaries have been violated and I need to be more clear in my wants and needs, while also saying a few more nos. And I need to let go of the past because who has time for regret? All super helpful information. All the truth. Taking action based on these emotions (or not taking it in some cases) will make me a better person and improve my life.

If we aren’t careful, ignored emotions can create all sorts of really messy problems. People get into accidents, destroy important relationships, get arrested, and all kinds of other terrible stuff due to not dealing with their emotions. There are anger management classes for a reason. So many of our world’s problems would be solved simply if we could all be present with our emotions and let them work themselves out. So for the sake of the entire world, feel your dang feelings!


This post is for informational purposes and not meant to be a replacement for professional mental health treatment.