Emotions, we all experience them, but it can be hard to pin down exactly what they are. A standard dictionary definition of emotion is “a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others.” The Latin root of the word is ‘ex’ meaning ‘out’ and ‘movere’ ‘to move’. Perhaps this can help us to understand how we experience our emotions, in that they ‘move us out’ of a calm, peaceful state into a stronger and not always desirable feeling state, such as fear or sadness.
We are programmed biologically to have emotions such as fear in order to alert us to danger – the feeling comes first to allow us to react and then come the thoughts about it. We sense we are in danger and so we run, milliseconds before having the conscious thought “I need to run”. Had we waited for the thought we may already have been eaten by the sabre-toothed tiger chasing us. However, our thoughts alone can also create emotional responses. These thoughts will often come from our unconscious programming and be driven by deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the world around us (for example feeling fearful caused by the belief ‘I am not good enough’ or ‘the world isn’t safe’) learnt from previous experiences.
We are conditioned to believe that certain emotions (such as happiness and joy) are acceptable and welcome, while other emotions (such as sadness, anger, fear) are less acceptable. Because of this conditioning we often try to suppress what we see as negative emotions and in doing so we adopt behaviours as coping strategies, these include cravings – causing us to reach for the chocolate cake, addictions – causing us to reach for a large glass of wine, unwanted habits – like overworking or binge-watching box-sets, and in the way we react to situations – going into a rage at the smallest thing, as well as in the body as physical symptoms – such as tension headaches and feeling tired. These are all important messages for us.
Exploring how we are really feeling and working to uncover suppressed emotions helps us to resolve the underlying issue, which enables us to experience the changes we want in our lives, such as being healthier. Emotions are important guides worth listening to. If we do we can make the most of this inbuilt guidance system (like our own personal Sat Nav). When we try to suppress the negative emotions we also end up reducing our capacity to experience positive ones. Developing a healthy way of relating to the whole spectrum of our emotions will benefit us, allowing us to become attuned to what they are telling us.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
EFT is a very powerful and effective tool for working with emotions. Different studies have shown that tapping on acupressure points calms down the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for activating the stress response) and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. This allows us to focus on what we are feeling without becoming overwhelmed. We can feel the emotion and have the accompanying thoughts, while the tapping moves us back into a calm and peaceful state. Also by focusing on the problem and giving ourselves permission to acknowledge how we are feeling, instead of resisting doing so, allows for a sense of relief and encourages self-acceptance and self-compassion. The irony is that this acceptance is what allows us to let it go. As Carl Rogers said… “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Working with our emotions when we recognise that we are out of balance helps us to heal and change, learning to process our emotions as they arise helps us to stay healthy and well in our daily lives.
In a later post, I will explore how EFT, NLP and hypnotherapy allow us to work with our thoughts and limiting beliefs driving our emotions.
You can find more information about EFT here: https://aametinternational.org/discover-eft/what-is-eft/
Or get in touch here to arrange a free to chat to explore working together.