Let’s be honest: On average, the way we as human beings have learned to handle our emotions is very often a mess. We all have a myriad of emotions we might experience throughout just one day, and we are so used to our own emotions that we may not really think to look at them, or we might sometimes have a certain way of always dealing with them (that may or may not be healthy).
Some people may express one emotion more strongly in order to cover up the other, some people may hide them entirely, some people may have them but are in denial themselves over what they are feeling.
On top of that, the way we grow up may condition us to judge ourselves over what we are feeling, causing us to feel alienated from others.
Males are often taught to handle their emotions differently than women (part of which led to the idea that women are more emotional than men, but through all my life experience to date I can say with confidence this is not true). They are just often expressed and handled differently, and men and women sometimes place importance on different things.
Emotion is a touchy, emotional subject in itself. But the truth is, emotions are also a gateway.
The way that we handle and express our emotions can give us clues about our true feelings on many things, even if intellectually we may not admit it.
Through all my meditation ― i.e. exploration of the self ― and from ten or so years of being on the antidepressant Prozac, I’ve learned that recognizing and properly handling our emotions is an incredibly important step towards enhanced self-awareness that cannot be overlooked.
Prozac really muted my emotions, and while most people would think that is a blessing (and in some cases where people tend to overreact or over-stress, it might be), it actually at times led to confusion about how I really felt about things. It literally cut me off from myself in this way, and it was coming off of Prozac that made me really see the difference.
Our emotions can be the thing that tells us exactly what’s in our hearts, even if we don’t want to listen. They might in fact be the only thing that shows us our most fulfilling path in life, if we are willing to put our guard down, embrace them, and experience life with an open heart.
They may give us hints towards things we hadn’t yet intellectually considered, and if we analyze them a bit, we might realize there is a long chain of cause and effect that end up making us feel a certain way. Something that might lead far back to our past that was a traumatizing event and is now dominating our lives majorly, yet we may not have even noticed.
Even if we think the way we are experiencing emotions is completely fine and there’s nothing wrong, just paying more attention to them and learning to embrace them fully can release us in ways we may not have even imagined. It means we are actually willing to become more in touch with ourselves.
Accepting our emotions might also allow us to slowly let go of layers of emotional baggage so that we can be freer than ever before, because true freedom starts in the mind.
Some Tips on More Effectively Handling Our Emotions
- The most important thing: Pay Attention. That’s it. Buddhists have talked about attention as their greatest advantage when breaking the chains of the mind. It’s true. If we don’t watch over our own minds (and our emotions), we will be controlled by them. Take some time to really understand why you’re feeling what you do.
- Understand the intelligence and awareness that lies in vulnerability. In other words, don’t be afraid to be real with yourself, even if it breaks your pride a little bit. The things in life that break our pride are what shows us where we can improve, or might show us the true nature of things, even if it feels crappy. This is easier said than done, though, and I realize that. I don’t like having my ego deflated, either. But it sure has awoken me many-a-time to reality.
- Don’t judge yourself based on what you should or shouldn’t be feeling. Many people do this subconsciously and tuck their feelings away.
- Learn to express them fully, without question, then let them go. Go deep into your emotions and explore them. Live them out fully. When doing so, they will live out their life and then release. It is only by resisting and suppressing them that they might stay alive forever.
“You don’t need to control emotion,” he said. “Emotions are natural, like passing weather. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes sorrow or anger. Emotions are not the problem. The key is to transform the energy of emotion into constructive action.”
― Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior
“Emotions are the next frontier to be understood and conquered. To manage our emotions is not to drug them or suppress them, but to understand them so that we can intelligently direct our emotional energies and intentions…. It’s time for human beings to grow up emotionally, to mature into emotionally managed and responsible citizens. No magic pill will do it.”
― Doc Childre