Emotions are powerful sources of information.
Like your thoughts, your emotions are an internal sense. Thoughts and emotions are only able to be felt and interpreted by you — the perceiver of these forces. The purpose of emotions in your body is to get you to either act toward things that drive satisfaction or act away from things that bring dissatisfaction or detect danger. They are a mechanism to be able to know if you are pursuing a life of thriving and/or deprivation. In these ways, emotions are informative.
The emotion of love encourages you to connect, form bonds, and stay safe. Happiness moves you to achieve, relax, and play. Fear or anger is useful when you need to protect yourself or others from threat or danger. Sadness provokes reflection and processing. We are designed to respond to the world around us and emotions are our guides.
Emotions have a relationship to the story in your head that is being told about your life. This emotional story is in relationship to your behavior choices, which your brain is astutely monitoring and making meaning from.
The majority of emotions arise from where your attention is given.
Most emotions are based on your perception. Exceptions include responses like trauma reactions, triggers, or the activation of your startle response. Outside of these kinds of physiological responses, how you perceive a situation — past, present, or future — will produce the emotion that will follow. Since your emotions are primarily predicated on your perceptions, then how you focus your attention will greatly shape how your emotional experience will unfold.
You may find that you have much more control over your emotional well-being than you think. A perspective like this emphasizes abundance and deemphasizes fear. In this way, emotions can be beneficial sources of positive and negative information, which lets them do the job they are designed for.
It can be tricky to truly know if what you’re feeling is actually the label that you’ve learned to give it. I have worked with many clients who have no idea that parts of them are carrying around a lot of shame and anger. It is also very common for people who, after some honest searching, realize that they have no idea what love actually feels like. They’ve always thought they knew what love felt like, but realize that they’ve never actually felt it. None of these experiences are wrong or bad, they are merely opportunities for new information to be learned.
If you were brought up in an environment where emotions were difficult, confusing, or non-existent, then you are likely as an adult going to have difficulty expressing or even being aware of your emotional experience. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It just means there are parts of you that you can practice differently, which means opportunities for growth and evolution.
This is a much more grounded way to feel.