Emotions aren't bad...or good
Updated: Aug 4
We often think of happy emotions as "good" and scary or difficult emotions as "bad." Emotions are just helpful information, though, like the lights on the car dash board. When we realize this, we can then choose to RESPOND to the situation instead of REACT to it.
It can be tempting to try to "turn off" the emotions that make us uncomfortable, but it turns out they are all wired together. You can't turn off one without cutting the power that supports them all.
Emotions aren't bad or good; they are just information about what is happening right now.
What information is our emotional dashboard likely to tell us?
Believe it or not, anger is helpful. Anger gives us information that there's a problem we need to fix and gives us the energy to motivate us to do it. Sometimes it's there to let us know that a boundary has been crossed and we need to do something to protect what's important to us. Sometimes it's to let us know about an injustice we need to correct. Next time you feel angry, ask yourself what your body wants you to fix.
Sadness tells us that we lost a connection to something important. Sometimes it's obvious to us what we have lost, and other times we might need to stop and think about what has been lost. Sadness encourages us to increase our connection to helpful people, activities, or goals. Just as when our GPS loses connection to the satellite, we might need to stop or slow down until we can figure out our route.
Fear and Anxiety
These warning lights try to protect us from danger. Fear tells us there is a present threat, and anxiety tries to predict if there's going to be a threat. Threats can be both physical and emotional. Sometimes these emotions prevent us from going forward until we can determine the risk.
Joy gives us a reminder about what's important to us. As the gas pedal of our emotions, joy feels good and motivates us to keep going with the current circumstances.
Healthy shame alerts us to a relationship problem. Shame is designed to help us notice when we are moving away from our community's values and to bring us back to the safety of a group. (Unhealthy shame or unhealthy community have the opposite effect and move us away from relationship.)
Feeling disgust toward something helps us reject what's unhealthy for us. It you feel disgusted about something, it likely opposes your values.
Curiosity gives us the opportunity to explore and learn.
Fueled by longing and attraction toward others, love encourages us to develop closeness with safe people.
Trust helps us connect with people who can help. Trust develops when we find someone to be reliable and offering a consistently positive response to us.
When you recognize what your emotions are trying to tell you, it can be easier to know how to respond.
Sometimes it's not always easy to know exactly what we're feeling. Next time you feel a confusing emotion and you aren't quite sure what it's trying to tell you, an emotion wheel can be a useful tool. The more basic emotions are at the center, so that's a good place to start. Then start moving outward to pinpoint a more exact meaning behind that weird feeling in your gut, throat, jaw, legs, or arms.