Understanding and Accepting Your Emotions


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by Jayaram V

You have heard many times that when you are angry you should count numbers one to ten and your anger will disappear. Did you ever try it and see what happened? Most of the time, in critical situations, people just don't remember the suggestion. They forget everything and burst into anger. Do you know why this happens?

You may have also heard about the ways in which you can control your anger, such as disputing your negative thoughts, practicing breath control, taking adequate rest, doing meditation and cultivating mindfulness.

No doubt these techniques may help you and others sometimes to achieve mental stability and emotional control. However, do they help you always and to control all your negative emotions?

Emotions are difficult to control. If you are one of those millions of ordinary people like me, you might have learned from your experience that emotions cannot be controlled easily. However hard you may try, there will be times when you cannot simply get rid of powerful emotions that invade your mind and you cannot help being angry, irritated, frustrated, afraid or anxious.

The problem with emotions is you cannot simply take them our of your system. They are an essential and inseparable part of your consciousness and personality. They are part of a survival mechanism built in us by Nature, which allows us to cope with the ups and downs of our lives both physically and mentally.

For example, fear may not be good for your self-esteem, but fear is necessary for your survival. Anger may not be good for your health and relationships, but anger is necessary at times to defend yourself from possible threats. These emotions help you to know how you are doing in general and the current state of your life and actions.

Our emotions are also helpful as shock absorbers to protect us from breaking down when things get too hot or too cold in our lives. Without emotions we will not be able to live our lives normally or humanly. Without emotions we will not be able to establish normal relationships with others or experience the sense of achievement or fulfillment or belongingness.

The social cost of trading with your emotions

Our emotions are meant to help us to relate to the world, know it, communicate with it and deal with it. Unfortunately society forces us to hide our behavior under the cloak of acceptable behavior, social rituals and conditioned responses.

You may gain social approval, recognition and acceptance when you hide your true feelings and emotions. However, most likely, the same strategy makes you feel conflicted, guilty and uncomfortable. We know from experienced that those who are good at manipulating others are deceptively pleasant and socially more popular than those who are honest but emotionally unpleasant.

The question is to what extent you are willing to trade your genuine emotions for the love and appreciation of others. When we hide our emotions and our true feelings, we stop being genuine, spontaneous and authentic in our relationships.

When we put on cultivated and polished faces and hide our true feelings for the satisfaction of others, we may stop being true to ourselves and others. While socially it may satisfy our need for approval and belongingness, morally it raises serious doubts in our minds about our character, faith and trust.

Although humans are more advanced and intelligent, the animals are more genuine and authentic in their behavior and responses than the human beings. The more educated we are, the less transparent and reliable we become. We are drawn to our pets because pets do not lie.

Understanding your emotions

Understanding how emotions arise and what purpose they serve in our survival is necessary to accept them and use them for our Wellbeing. Here are few important facts about emotions which helps us to understand them  and cope with them.

Accept your emotions rather than suppressing them. One of the first steps in dealing with emotions such as anger or fear is to acknowledge them as normal and human. There is nothing sinful or immoral about being emotional, unless your emotions make you inhuman, insensitive and cruel to others. Feelings of guilt associated with emotions are more devastating and damaging than the experience of emotion itself. So when you deal with the problem of emotions, you should learn not only how to control them but also how to accept them and manage the guilt and remorse arising from them.

Emotions make us human. Society may love to see a cool cowboy who would not bat an eyelid when the guns are blazing at him or when someone tries to provoke him with an insulting word. But let us admit, if you really come across such a person in your life, probably you will not feel very comfortable with him or her. When it comes to friendship and relationships, we prefer emotionally vibrant people to the cold and calculated types, whose minds and hearts none can fathom.

Emotions are useful. There is a reason why emotions are so difficult to control. There is also a reason why probably we may never be able to control them completely. Our personality is made up of two components, one primitive and one modern. The primitive part constitutes the core. It is what we have in common with the rest of the Nature. The recent or the modern part is the most human and rational part. It constitutes the outer core. It is where our exclusive human faculties are located. Our senses are wired primarily to the primitive mind and through the primitive mind to the more recent one. Nature intended this design for our survival and continuity. But in the process it also created some problems and consequences.

Emotions are part of a complex decision making process. Although we are different from animals and mostly rely upon reason and thinking, the primitive core of our personality still plays a vital role in our survival and wellbeing. It is where the external stimuli and perceptions are first received and processed before they are transmitted to the outer core for further processing, analysis and control. The outer core works more or less like a regulator or controller. It decides what to do with the information coming from the primitive core, whether to modify the primitive and instinctual responses coming from the other side or let them go unchecked and unchanged. To the extent we develop our outer core and polish our thinking and reasoning skills, we have the ability to control our primitive behavior and show our more civilized, refined and polished behavior. This is why education and overall awareness are such important factors in the development of human personality and in controlling one's behavior.

We can control our emotions only partially. Most of the time, the rational mind controls the information coming from the primitive core and makes it own decisions as to what to do and how to respond. This is the norm. This is what happens when you are talking to strangers, riding a rollercoaster or watching an emotionally intense drama. You remain in control and let the emotions slide through your system harmlessly and almost unnoticeably.

However during critical situations, especially when a threat is perceived, the outer core loses control and fails to regulate the impulses and instinctual responses coming from the primitive brain. As a result, we let disturbing thoughts and emotions arise in our consciousness and succumb to our primitive behavior.

It is also possible that at times our rational minds go into faulty mode of thinking and aggravate the primitive responses instead of countering them rationally and realistically. Irrational thinking is therefore a key factor in our failure to manage our emotions.

Since emotions arise primarily in the primitive parts of our consciousness and since our senses are primarily wired to them, it logically follows that if we can control our primitive minds, we can control our emotions. Unfortunately we cannot do it.

The primitive mind is a wild thing, basically in auto mode and mostly uncontrollable. It is self-regulated, autonomous and spontaneous. We can only control it and endure it through the rational, analytical and human part of the brain.

Emotions are natural to human behavior. There is nothing sinful or immoral about our emotions. They are a natural and inseparable part of our consciousness. They have a role to play in ensuring our survival and enriching our consciousness. When we experience them, we should learn to get the message they are intending to deliver rather than feeling sorry about them.

We have two minds hidden in our consciousness, like day and night or light and darkness. They are the inseparable twins. One is primitive and independent and the other rational and analytical.

Together they make you who you are, human, a mixture of opposites and a subject of duality. Your behavior depends to a great extent upon which part of your mind is activated and how much control your rational mind exercises over your primitive mind.

Learn to live with your emotions. In times of emotional turmoil, remember that emotions arise because your senses are wired to the primitive part of your mind and your rational mind does not always deal with the messages coming from it effectively.

These messages are part of your survival and existential mechanism, and should not be stifled simply because emotions are unhealthy and betray your weaknesses.

When emotions arise, instead of stifling them, pay attention to them and try to understand the messages they are trying to deliver. This way you make use of your emotions without losing your balance and inner stability.

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