Updated: Jul 15, 2019
We often treat emotions as a nuisance, a weakness, or a defect. Emotions are a central component of who we are and, though some might say otherwise, there is not anyone without emotion. Those who say they are emotionless often are missing a key component that is at work in their decisions, relationships, and perspectives. They are emotional people, they just don’t know their emotions and therefore may have some significant limitations as a result.
Additionally, emotions are not easily argued away by logic or shame. When we shove them down, cover them up, or attempt to shut them off, we encounter a number of problems and pathologies. This is at play when parents become frustrated about their child’s tantrum about what they view as meaningless. Telling your child that they should not feel a particular emotion is ineffective.
In addition to being a force in our interpretation of our world and our connection with others, our emotions tell us so much about what’s happening internally. Being a non-judgemental observer of our emotions allows us to make connections, understand what is going on inside of us, and opens the door for us to begin addressing change in our lives.
I encourage individuals to view their emotions as a thermometer verses a thermostat. The distinction is important. It's important to pay attention to what you are sensing. If we ignore a high temperature we might run into problems. On the other hand, the usefulness of the thermometer becomes limited if we assume that the high temperature points to a particular origin without being curious about the various options. Additionally, a thermostat dictates temperature. If our emotions begin to dictate the temperature of our lives, decisions, and actions we are using them incorrectly. They are responses to things that are happening internally and it's important to pay attention to them.