Emotions are “energy in motion”. They make us human and are part of who we are.
Although many times neglected, emotional well-being is essential for our overall health. When we deal with our emotions effectively we enhance our experience of life and give ourselves an opportunity to thrive.
So how can we build our emotional well-being? Below you will find a three-step guide.
Perceive & Understand
We can only gain control of our emotions to the extent we learn to identify them and understand them. Managing our feelings becomes impossible if we can’t pinpoint what exactly it is that we’re feeling and why.
Although it may sound like a pretty natural thing to do, having the ability to accurately perceive our emotions can be trickier than we imagine. For instance, we may think that we feel angry (the most easily accessible emotion) when in fact what we feel is hurt.
To become aware of our genuine emotions we must get in touch with our inner world by uncovering the layers beneath what we (assume) we feel. Are you angry or could it be that you’re scared instead? Are you sad or is it disappointment that you’re feeling?
Not only do we need to know what exactly it is that we’re experiencing but also understand the reasons why. We must look within ourselves, not with the intention of passing judgment or becoming critical, but solely to make sense of our complex emotional world.
Only by getting to know our true feelings and where they come from can we work towards managing them to our benefit.
Accept & Experience
Just as there needs to be night for there to be day, we need to experience negative emotions to be able to experience positive ones. The moment we shut down in an effort to avoid unpleasant feelings, we end up depriving ourselves from experiencing good feelings as well.
Think of our emotional pathway as a tunnel that once blocked by our repressed negative emotions becomes a bottleneck that leaves no space for positive emotions to flow through.
We just can’t have a rainbow without any rain.
So to enjoy happiness, excitement, and satisfaction we need to allow ourselves to also experience sadness, disappointment, anger, and fear. Not to dwell or ruminate on our negative feelings but to accept them as part of our nature.
Plus, the more we resist an emotion the more it persists.
We can cover up our true feelings with others that we believe are more acceptable and make us less vulnerable, such as trying to replace fear with anger. However, the genuine feelings we have deep inside don’t go away. We can hide them and repress them but we can’t get rid of them.
As Freud wisely suggested, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
It is only by accepting our feelings and allowing ourselves to fully experience them that we can gain control and set ourselves free.
Evaluate & Manage
Acknowledging our emotions and allowing ourselves to experience them does not mean we have to act on them. Just as we shouldn’t deny or fight our feelings, we shouldn’t give them free rein either.
Instead of living at the mercy of our emotions, we can develop the ability to regulate them and engage in strategies to manage them effectively. For example, we can work to repair our feelings of frustration before they spiral into anger or depression; just as we can redirect our feelings of fear and anxiety into excitement.
Negative moods can be repaired and disturbing feelings can be turned into something constructive.
Although temperament is genetically determined, we can always change the way we feel by owning our thoughts. Much of what we feel is caused by how we think, so we might just want to start by analyzing how we’re interpreting the world around us (Are you looking at the glass half empty or half full?).
Just as emotions can be used as a compass to successfully navigate life, they can hinder our effectiveness if we don’t take the time to discover the truth beneath them. So make sure you evaluate your emotions before you react to them.
As Alfred Adler once said, always “follow your heart but take your brain with you.”
You can learn to master your emotions and leverage their power so you can shine or you can become their slave and let them be your shadow.
Jessica Beltran, MS is a deeply passionate soul who firmly believes that it is never too late to become who we want to be. She started out her career as a corporate attorney to later realize that her true passion and calling in life is psychology. She now holds a Masters of Science in Psychology and currently works as a Human Resources Director, applying psychology to the business world. Jessica loves to write about the human mind and behavior not only based on what science has taught her but on what she’s learned from her own self-discovery journey. Psychology changed her life and Jessica hopes through the beauty of words and her love for the field she’ll be able to change the lives of others.Like this author?