top of page
  • flourishupstatecou

Listening to emotions rather than shutting them down


Emotions are often seen as annoying, something we wish we didn't have, what we go to therapy to fix, or whims of character. However, they have a profound purpose and shutting them down often makes them louder or your experience worse.

From human history, emotions are integral to the survival of species. They act as cues, guiding behavior that has been crucial for the survival and reproductive success of our ancestors. Emotions have adaptive value. For example, fear would prompt an early human to flee from a predator, and disgust could prevent them from eating spoiled food, thus protecting them from harm.

Emotions also play a vital role in social interaction. They help us communicate our feelings and needs to others, even before the advent of complex language. For instance, facial expressions conveying emotions such as anger or happiness or fear would communicate to others without speaking.

What emotions tell us

Loneliness is not just what we feel when we are isolated but a signal pushing us to seek connection and community. This emotion likely played a key role in our ancestral environment where being part of a group could mean the difference between life and death. In modern times, loneliness encourages us to reach out and forge bonds that are crucial for emotional and psychological health.

support from community

Anger, often viewed negatively, is fundamentally a call to action. It arises from a sense of injustice or frustration and serves as a powerful motivator to address wrongs. In prehistoric times, anger might have compelled us to defend our territory or negotiate for fairer treatment within our community. Today, it can fuel movements for social justice or push us to change aspects of our lives that are making us unhappy.

make a change

Anxiety is a form of emotional anticipation of potential threats, instilling caution and wariness. Evolutionarily, this emotion was crucial for survival, heightening our senses and readiness when faced with uncertain situations. Today anxiety can help us prepare for important events or avoid hazardous situations.

plan ahead

Importance of emotions

1. Communicating with self

Every emotion carries information. By listening to what our emotions are telling us, we validate our own internal experiences, which is crucial for self-awareness and personal growth. For instance, feeling overwhelmed might be telling you to slow down and prioritize self-care, or excitement might be guiding you to pursue a new opportunity that aligns with your passions.

2. Enhancing Decision-Making

Contrary to popular belief, effective decision-making isn't solely about logic. Emotions play a key role in helping us make choices that are not only rational but also satisfying. Listening to our emotions can help us understand what we truly value and what will make us happiest in the long run. For example, a sense of unease about a particular decision can prompt us to look more closely at our options and perhaps choose a path that feels more 'right'. Listening to emotions doesn't mean we let them rule our behavior or we make choices only on that. For instance its not fair to dismiss behavior because we were angry or only do what makes us happy rather than what is going to benefit us in the long run.

3. Improving Relationships

Emotions are also essential in the context of relationships. By acknowledging and expressing our emotions, we communicate more authentically with others, fostering deeper connections and understanding. Listening to emotions like empathy can guide us to be more considerate and supportive of others' needs and experiences.

Recognizing emotions as communicating to the self can change how we perceive them and react to them. Instead of dismissing our feelings or trying to shut them down, we can view them as trying to communicate with us. I tell my clients if we try to shut emotions down then they get louder to be heard. I like to imagine a tantruming 5 year old following you from room to room getting louder. If you stop to listen to the 5 year old and give the kid what they need (a bandaid, a hug, fix their toy) they stop crying. Same with emotions, avoiding them doesn't make them go away, listening to them while it can be uncomfortable helps in the long run.

How to Listen to Emotions Instead of Shutting Them Down

By listening to and working with our emotions rather than suppressing them, we can lead richer and more responsive lives. Emotions are not just remnants of our evolutionary past but are active, dynamic parts of our daily existence. They enhance our interactions, guide our decisions, and deepen our understanding of the world and ourselves.

0 views0 comments


bottom of page