What is life if we were to feel nothing at all? Emotion evokes passion and passion evokes the sense of being alive. So, why then does emotion get such a bad rap?
How often have you heard the phrases: “Don’t be so emotional,” or “You shouldn’t make decisions based on your emotions.” How often have you told even yourself to not get “overly emotional”? It almost seems like to gain ultimate respect a person must take emotion out of things. It implies that emotion should not be a part of our rational thought. It also makes a person feel bad for having any emotion at all. We are taught that emotions are weak. We are taught that emotions equal problems. I will be challenging this thought process.
The dashboard lights on a car indicate what is going on underneath the hood. They can tell you how fast you are going, how much gas you have, RPMs, etc., etc. They will signal you if something is wrong. Sometimes it doesn’t even know what is wrong, but it will give you a light saying, “Hey, I think you need to check something over here!” These small lights and dials perform a huge service. They are keeping you informed about what you can’t possibly know while you are busy trying to get through rush hour traffic. They look out for you and direct you the whole time you are driving. You wouldn’t listen to someone if they told you that it was dumb to check out a signal light that came on. You wouldn’t let them convince you that the light never came on in the first place. So, why do we do this with our emotions? “Don’t be emotional,” you say?! You mean don’t use our internal signal that is actively trying to tell us something?
Emotions are your internal indicators as to what is going on with under your personal “hood” while you navigate through your days. Your emotions are valid, because they are signaling to you that something is going on. They tell you things like, “Hey, we are feeling good about your efforts, keep up the good work.” Or they could say something more along the lines of “Hey, you are feeling sad today, you should take a look into what is going on.” Whatever the emotion, it dings a light in your head to get your attention.
A lot of times, actions and emotions get jumbled and they are judged together. This is a big mistake. Emotions are the feelings and mental response to something. How someone responds in a tangible manner to these feelings should be judged separately. If these two get lumped together in the same category, then emotions get judged inaccurately. Emotions are just the indicators. Actions are what you do with those indicators.
Say for example, a signal light goes off in your head and you feel angry. Right and wrong lies within what you decide to do with that emotion signal. Ask yourself why you feel angry, and then search your options to choose an appropriate course of action. What you choose to do should be judged according to its context. The angry signal here did nothing right or wrong. The angry signal let you know that something angered you.
When a light comes on your dashboard that you don’t know what it means, it can be tempting to ignore it and hope it goes away. Likewise, if unrecognizable emotions come your way, it can be tempting to pretend it does not exist. A very popular lie that everyone has said at one point or another is, “I’m fine.” A classic brush-off of unwanted or unknown emotion, while hiding behind a polite societal stigma. People do not like taking the time analyzing this emotion most often because of fear. This eventually catches up with you though. If you do not address an emotion that is bothering you, then it doesn’t just disappear. It then becomes part of a pile that slowly rises as each emotion gets adds on. Until the emotions are addressed, you are at risk for some serious damage to be done.
If car signals remain ignored, the car will eventually break down. Your emotions are no different. A car can be replaced should it break down, but you are irreplaceable. Emotions should be treated with respect because they are a vital part of your life. Emotions are there to guide you and to warn you. It is a waste to cast them aside.
Instead of viewing emotions as irrational, weak, or a problem, as we have been taught, let’s view them as our internal dashboard lights. They are the indicators that provide the information we need so that we can plan our actions. Embrace the signals that they are and utilize their information to live well. Your emotions are valid. Period.