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Listen to your emotions

Emotions are a part of our everyday life and involved in everything we do. Some things make us angry, some nostalgic and some make us choke with laughter. Every emotion has its place – even the emotions we often consider ‘bad’.

Emotions provide us with important messages that we should learn to listen to. They also create meaning and make things ‘feel like something’. Accordingly, you should forget the distinction between good and bad emotions and learn to value the importance of all emotions. Without your emotions, you would not be yourself.

By accepting all emotions as a part of yourself, you are also able to accept yourself the way you are. This will also improve your self-esteem and allow you to like yourself even when everything does not go as well as it could.

By accepting all emotions as a part of yourself, you are also able to accept yourself the way you are.

Your own way to experience emotions is the right one

Emotions refer to short-term, spontaneous and passing reactions. They are caused by stimuli that may originate from yourself or from the outside. Experiencing emotion also includes physical signs that may include, for instance, the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Blushing
  • Trembling
  • Nausea

There is no single correct way to experience emotions. Everyone experiences and expresses emotions individually. Our temperament, personality and previous experiences all affect, for example, the following:

  • How different emotions feel like in our body
  • What kinds of emotional reactions different things and situations cause
  • How we express emotions

Everyone experiences and expresses emotions individually.

Our individual differences in experiencing and expressing emotions make each one of us unique. When we give space to our individual sensations, we are able to truly accept ourselves the way we are.

Difficult emotions are important too

It is easy to think of certain emotions as good and positive. Working with them is easy and straightforward. Emotions such as joy, love, excitement and approval release energy and help everything function as if by itself.

Emotions we consider negative, however, are the difficult ones. Hatred, disgust, shame, fear, pain and sense of failure are examples of feelings that we often find hard to accept. Nonetheless, they are as important as the emotions we consider positive.

Difficult emotions make us act in ways such as the following:

  • Prepare for challenging things and situations
  • Find alternative solutions
  • Search for means of change
  • Try harder
  • Protect ourselves from dangers

Remember that there is always a reason for a certain emotion to awaken. Emotions have important messages to tell us, whether they are about things we have ignored in life or opportunities for personal growth.

By listening to the messages your emotions have for you, you will learn to understand yourself better. Your self-knowledge will increase, you will learn to function better in different situations and interacting with others will become easier. Your self-esteem will improve once you accept yourself – all aspects of yourself.

By listening to the messages your emotions have for you, you will learn to understand yourself better.

Tips for processing emotions

You cannot do anything to stop emotions from arising, but you can always learn new ways to process them.

Try to remember the following when facing your emotions:

  • Emotions may arise suddenly. You can let emotions wash through you and just acknowledge them. Even though feelings of distress and anxiety might not disappear, you will still feel a bit better.
  • You can listen to your emotions – how they affect your mood and thoughts and how they feel like in your body.
  • You do not always have the opportunity to process emotions immediately as or after they arise. They can be awakened by things such as new situations and events or someone’s words, general aspect, gestures or voice. You can observe the emotion then or, if even that is impossible, return to it later.
  • It is never too late to process emotions you have not been able to face earlier.
  • Pay attention to emotions that will not leave you. What helps you let go of them (e.g. exercise, being outdoors, something nice to do)?
  • Listen to and value the emotions that help protect yourself, for instance.

Give your emotions concrete shape

  • Talk about your emotions. The more you talk about them, the better you become at it. It also makes it easier to accept and understand your emotions.
  • Create characters for your emotions in your mind. Because emotions are invisible yet still very true in your mind, imaginary characters might make it easier to control them. Mental images hold immense power.
  • Do exercises related to emotions. You can increase your understanding of emotions with exercises such as drawing or otherwise visualising the emotions you experience. You could also keep an emotion diary.
  • Attaching emotions to things like music or exercising is very useful. Who would not have a trusty song they always listen to when sad/angry/happy, etc. Music awakens emotions and also helps deal with them. Exercising can give you similar benefits for processing emotions.
  • Do exercises with mental images: visualise such situations in advance that are sure to evoke emotions and place yourself in them. Go through different ways in which you could act in them and choose the one you think is best.

How to act when experiencing strong emotions?

  • Make a conscious effort to calm down: Focusing on your own breathing and calmly breathing in and out are in themselves efficient ways to calm your own agitated reactions.
  • Call a time-out: Step back and recognise your feelings but do not react yet. If possible, go to another place or do something completely different to calm yourself down. When your emotions stabilise, wait a moment and consider the situation. What happened? Why are you feeling the way you are feeling? What alternative ways to act do you have? Which one would be the best choice? How could you best express yourself? After having done this, act in your chosen way.

Sometimes emotions can get you stuck in a certain state and leave you emotionally trapped. If needed, you should ask for support for processing emotions from outsiders.

Food for thought:

  •  How are you usually feeling?
  • Do you easily recognise your emotions?
  • How do you act with your emotions?