Even negative emotions can be our allies when we know how to listen to them.
Uncomfortable emotions feel like monsters hiding in the shadows waiting to pounce. They can seem uncontrollable. In reality, emotions are nothing more than data about what is going on inside of us in the same way our 5 senses provide data about what is going on outside.
Emotions are not beyond our control. When a memory is stored in the cells of our brain, the hippocampus, which controls memory, “packages” those memories with an emotion, drawn from the library of emotions stored in our amygdala. When the thought rises back from storage and into our subconscious, before we are even consciously aware of it, the emotions comes along. We feel the emotion without any awareness of the thought.
Emotions are part of our intuition
Those emotions serve as our intuition, as a clue to the thoughts we are believing in response to whatever situation we are facing.
What we believe about ourselves, our place in the world, about other people and about God (or lack of a God) are what we call our identity. Those stories are compiled over many years starting in childhood.
We draw conclusions about our self based on how we are treated by the important people in our life. Over time certain conclusions are reinforced more than others – maybe you tripped and fell a lot as a toddler and were laughed at by a relative, then ridiculed at school for missing the ball in gym, then failed the physical required to get a job… You might not remember the all specific events that built up over time but in your head you just “know” you are a klutz.
Our brain is an incredibly adept research and storage machine. It is not good at judging truth however. If you have the seeds of a belief which says “I am clumsy and people ridicule me for it” Your brain accepts that as gospel truth. Any event which seems to support the belief even slightly, is stored as proof your belief is right. Any evidence to the contrary is not stored in memory.
My friend Georgia was convinced she was cursed with extreme clumsiness. Her father and older brothers used to laugh at her efforts to join them in football games in the yard. For the next 20 years, anytime she did anything even slightly awkward, her brain stored the event away as proof of her clumsiness.
One day she tripped over the curb as we walked together into the grocery store. She noticed someone nearby who was smiling. Because of the story Georgia believes about her identity as a clumsy person she was 100% convinced that person was laughing at her. As a result she felt embarrassed and ashamed.
- she completely misinterpreted that feeling?
- the feeling of shame was actually a nudge from her soul, trying to get her attention?
- the purpose of feelings we have labeled as negative, is not to hurt us, but to clue us in to where we are believing a lie about ourselves?
- the purpose of ANY emotion is to get you to think about what you are thinking about?
- the real, authentic you in your soul knows you are believing a lie and is trying to wake you up to that fact by sending up an uncomfortable feeling?
Your “Real You” is your authentic self and is on your side. Think of it as the counter-point to our inner critic. The Real You knows the truth about your worth and your value. That “you” wants to be heard and believed.
This is a huge mind shift and takes a while to wrap your head around. Very few people talk about emotions as messages that come up to alert you to a wrong belief.
Thanks to current scientific research, we are learning the truth about emotions. Emotions are tied to thoughts, packaged in memory with the thought.
There is a possibility that negative, painful emotions are intentionally chosen by brain to be grafted to any thoughts our inner self recognizes as a lie. Think about that. Your soul knows you are believing a lie and takes steps to alert you to the lie by attaching an uncomfortable feeling to the memory of that thought!
So what if the role of emotions, especially unpleasant ones, is a gift, meant to help us identify beliefs that don’t serve us and don’t align with who we really are?
If emotions are messengers about what is going on inside, what else might your emotions being trying to tell you?