We have feelings for a reason. They provide valuable information that can help to steer us in the right direction in life…if we learn to listen to them. Imagine if we didn’t have the emotion of fear and we ran across a grizzly bear. Without such emotions I think the human race would have been short-lived! In an analogous way, pain also tells us critical information – that our body is not well. The pain of a sprained ankle tells us not to put so much weight on it. If we continued to walk or run in a normal manner on a sprained ankle we would cause much more damage and impede the healing process. We need to listen to our bodies.
Taking this analogy further, it used to be thought that leprosy was a degenerative disease that, in itself, caused the flesh to deteriorate. Doctors eventually discovered that what actually was happening is that nerves were no longer sending signals of pain so that the afflicted individual would do things like continue to walk the normal way on badly blistered feet. This would cause wounds to worsen and acquire infections, which would then been the primary culprit in causing degenerative tissue damage.
Going back to emotions, frequent feelings of anger or sadness in a relationship typically are telling us that there are things about the relationship that need improvement for us to feel happy (and probably our significant other as well!). For example, perhaps we are upset that our partner is spending too much time away from home and at work. Feelings of guilt after wrong-doing are, importantly, telling us that we shouldn’t have done that particular action. Often those feelings of guilt (which can be attributed to our conscience) are letting us know that we should apologize, make restitution, and avoid that same course of action in the future.
Certainly, our emotions can be misleading and exaggerated at times. But we cannot discover this unless we first look inward and ask ourselves, “What am I feeling right now? Where is this coming from? What do I need to do to address these feelings?” One of my favorite quotes that I use as a guiding principle in my own life is from Albert Einstein:
A problem cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created it.
Regarding our emotions, we cannot learn what our emotions are telling us unless we first listen to them. If we merely stay at the level of being mad, for instance, we will continue to be a victim of such emotions. It is only when we reflect upon the message such emotions are sending us will we begin to determine what to do next. We should all practice doing periodic “check ins” with ourselves throughout each day. As we become more adept at knowing ourselves, we will be able to more effectively adjust our course in life to reduce our suffering and our increase well-being.
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