Our emotions matter

Many of us unconsciously distance ourselves from our emotions. Instead of talking in the first person about how we feel, we  talk in the third person.  We might relate an incident that felt frightening, describing how ‘It felt scary’, rather than saying ‘I felt scared’, for example.   Does this sound familiar?  If you start looking out for it, you’ll notice it coming up in conversations all the time. 

Sometimes our emotions can feel overwhelming and we worry that by letting other people know how we feel, we might lose control or look weak.  As a counsellor, I’ve seen that when clients begin to recognise, understand and give themselves permission to feel and show their emotions, they often begin to form more intimate relationships with other people.

Our emotions serve an important function

We have four primary emotions that are always triggered by something that has happened: sadness, happiness, fear, anger.  Each of these emotions serves an important function – it motivates us to do something that will help us resolve a situation. Once we’ve resolved the situation, the feeling normally passes.  Our tears tell us that we need comforting, for example, our fear tells us that there is imminent danger and our anger tells us that a value has been crossed and that we need to make a change. 

Of course we sometimes feel afraid when we’re faced with a threat that isn’t real. Or our response to an emotion might not be appropriate to the situation.  We’ve all done this at some point in our lives and counselling can help us learn to recognise, understand and regulate our emotions in these situations.

When I meet clients who are experiencing other emotions such as anxiety, irritation, hopelessness and frustration, these emotions are usually unresolved and they may have become stuck.  Part of the work that we do together is learning how to untangle these emotions and make small changes that can make a difference. 

Our feelings are all valid

Sometimes clients tell me that they have two conflicting emotions – they might feel happy and jealous at the same time.  I often think of our emotions as being like a soup or cocktail of varying shades and colours.  We  don’t always feel only one emotion at any given time.  What’s important is that all of our emotions are valid because they’re our feelings and how we feel matters. 

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