Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes. –Kahlil Gibran (On Reason and Passion from The Prophet)
In our society, particularly the Western society, emotions are often seen as “irrational” and of minimal usefulness.
For many people, emotions simply don’t make sense because they aren’t “practical” or “efficient.” As an INTJ, Empath and teacher of many High Sensitive People, I can tell you that there’s nothing irrational about emotions at all.
In fact, rationality is only one feature of our multidimensional human psyches. By putting such emphasis and value into cultivating rationality above all other qualities, our society has essentially encouraged inner conflict and interpersonal imbalance which leads to cultural decay.
Although we don’t consciously choose how we react emotionally, this doesn’t make emotions irrational; it merely makes them non-intentional.
Can you image if we only had dispassionate and purely logical members of society in the fields of government, business, religion, or education? We are already seeing some of the effects of emotional constipation within these fields in the news recently.
“Emotional intelligence” is just as important as any of the other multiple intelligences we possess including our intellectual, imaginative, sensory, natural, and musical facets, to name a few.
Without the liveliness that emotions bring into our lives, we would quickly burn out as humans. In fact, without emotions we wouldn’t be human at all. This is why it’s troubling when we ask questions such as “Why am I so emotional?”
Our emotions are here for a reason. When we truly listen to them, we find amazing hidden wisdom underneath each one. In this article I want to help you learn how to value your emotions in a world that discourages you from feeling them.
How Emotions Help You to Deepen Your Relationship With Existence
Whether they are positive or negative, emotions are not experiences we choose. They happen without any planning or advanced notice due to the ever-changing relationships we have with each other and ourselves, causing us to become imbalanced.
However, the wisdom contained within our emotions can help us recover our original balance, as well as repair or completely reinvent our world, allowing us to live in more fulfilling ways.
Our emotions help us to deepen our relationship with existence because they give us guidance in the form of revelations. For example, what we would call a “negative” emotion (anger or sadness) helps to guide you by telling you that something is wrong, something needs to change, or be improved upon.
A “positive” emotion, on the other hand, is an embodiment or expression of the gratitude you feel for something good that has happened in your life.
Emotions are catalysts of action that motivate us to either make changes to recover our lost balance, or to be grateful and celebrate what we already have.
How to Use Self-Inquiry to Understand the Hidden Messages of Your Emotions
When we are overcome by passionate emotions that blind us with intensity, it is hard to appreciate them, or see them as the guides they are. This is why balancing our hearts with the mind is so important.
Contrary to popular belief, reason and rationality are not enemies of emotion. In fact, reason/rationality compliment emotions by helping them to become balanced as Kahlil Gibran beautifully describes in the opening words of this article.
Below you’ll find a few questions that can help you explore the meanings and messages behind your emotions, and what they have to share with you:
When you are Angry, ask yourself:
- How do I believe I deserve to be treated?
- How do I feel this person or place should be treated?
- What do I think is wrong with the world?
- Am I contributing in some way to this problem and if so, what can I do to stop it?
When you are Sad, ask yourself:
- What have I lost or fear losing that I love, appreciate or desire?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent the loss from happening?
- If there’s not, how can I allow myself to mourn this loss fully?
- What does my lost love or desire say about me?
When you are Ashamed, ask yourself:
- What was expected of me and what do I expect of myself?
- What are my genuine values, and which ones do I feel I have broken either knowingly or unknowingly?
- Would I do what I did again if I knew the consequences of my actions?
- Can I make things right with those I have let down and with myself, and if so, how?
When you are Happy, ask yourself:
- What do I feel makes my world better or more complete?
- What brings the greatest joy to my life on a daily basis?
- What do the answers to the above two questions say about who I am and my values?
- What is the best way I can express and celebrate what I feel brings great joy to my life?
When you are Afraid, ask yourself:
- What do I feel is dangerous and therefore must be escaped or avoided?
- Is there anything I can do to protect myself or others?
- What degree of fear am I willing to put up with in pursuit of my goals?
- Is there true security in life? If so, what skills or resources do I need in order to take care of myself and my loved ones?
Ideally, you’ll come up with your own questions to suit your particular obstacle, but these questions are a good place to start.
Self-inquiry is so useful because it helps us to uncover and understand the personal beliefs and attitudes we carry, as well as the cultural conventions and social conditioning influencing how we feel.
Sometimes we may find the beliefs influencing our emotions to be mistaken, and other times we may find ourselves validated and reaffirmed. The point is that self-inquiry will help you to learn enough about yourself to cultivate balanced inner and outer relationships by responding in healthy ways.
The 4 Step Emotional Assimilation Process
Most of us never really learn how to embrace our emotions in ways that will serve ourselves and others.
Emotions are our Soul’s way of communicating to us. Here is a very simple four step process that will allow your emotions to flow through you and leave traces of wisdom, like nuggets of gold at the bottom of the river, that will enrich your life:
- Allow yourself to thoroughly experience the raw emotion itself. Begin by feeling it physically, truly embody that emotion and allow it to be expressed through you. What sound does it want to make? What movement, posture or gesture do you feel best describes it? Don’t censor it and don’t add to your Shadow Self, instead, allow it to arise and come out in its most raw form.
- What is the emotion trying to tell you? After you’ve embodied and expressed it, you can now explore, without any self-judgement, what exactly that emotion is trying to tell you about yourself; your values, beliefs, needs, desires, expectations, attitudes, etc.
- How can you behave according to this emotion’s message? Once you’ve expressed and explored the emotion, you can begin acting based on what you’ve learned from this emotion. Is there anything you can do to bring balance to the world again (e.g. forgiving a person that let you down or learning to be more assertive), or is there a way you can share your emotion with others and celebrate the joy you feel?
- After the emotion has been expressed, explored and understood, you can then assimilate it. Assimilation of an emotion is a slow process that will only be realized in hindsight. Only once the emotional dust has settled can you truly learn the value the emotion brought into our life.
We are often criticized for expressing our emotions and feel guilty or uncomfortable when feeling strong sensations, but emotions are vital parts of life. I have dealt with countless people who have asked me, “Why am I so emotional … what’s wrong with me,” and the answer is always “nothing!” It is normal to experience many emotions, but it is abnormal to suppress them or pretend they don’t exist. It is also harmful to indulge in emotional drama without paying attention to the hidden messages encapsulated in each emotion.
When we can apply self-inquiry to our emotions, we find that feelings add another piece to our inner puzzle and journey towards a more whole and authentic self.