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February 19, 2024

How to Feel? Re-Connecting with Emotions

Excited middle-aged woman in nature, sitting on a stone wall, engaging with a computer, embodying emotional connection and happiness.
Aya Rechenburg
Therapist & Personal Trainer

In this article, you'll explore:

  • The distinct roles of emotions and feelings in shaping our lives.
  • The impact of emotional disconnection on mental health and relationships.
  • Strategies for deepening emotional connections and resilience.
  • Approaches to harness both positive and negative emotions.
  • The importance of emotionally intelligent decision-making for lasting well-being.

A Comprehensive Guide to Emotions and Feelings

Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way.

- Mavis Mazhura

Emotions play a crucial role in our daily lives, influencing our thoughts, actions, and interactions with others. They are powerful forces that can drive us forward or hold us back, and understanding them is crucial for personal development and healthy relationships. Emotions serve as our internal compass, guiding us through life’s complexities and helping us navigate our world.

At the heart of our emotional world lie two fundamental concepts:

  • Emotions: These are automatic, physiological reactions to external and internal stimuli. Manifesting rapidly through physical responses, emotions are our body's immediate reaction to significant events.
  • Feelings: Representing our cognitive processing and interpretation of these emotions, feelings are influenced by our beliefs, thoughts, and past experiences. They add depth and context to our primitive emotional responses.

While 'emotions' and 'feelings' are often used synonymously, they encompass distinct facets of our internal landscape. Emotions are instinctive and unrefined, signaling important occurrences. Feelings, contrarily, are our subjective understanding and assimilation of these emotions.

Grasping the symbiotic relationship between emotions and feelings is crucial. Emotions alert us to critical incidents, while feelings contextualize and assign meaning to these instinctive responses. This interplay crafts a complex internal mosaic, steering our decisions, molding our behaviors, and significantly influencing our overall well-being.

The Significance of Emotions

As we uncover more the realm of emotions, it becomes apparent that these complex responses play a pivotal role in directing us toward a life of happiness and fulfillment.

Emotions as Guides to Happiness

Emotions are invaluable tools that offer insight into our deepest values, and they serve as compasses guiding our actions and decisions. They are integral components of our internal guidance system, teaching us about our values and guiding our actions.

        1. Positive Emotions as Indicators of Alignment:

  • Positive emotions often signify that our actions or circumstances align with our values and desires, bringing fulfillment and contentment.

      2. Negative Emotions as Indicators of Misalignment

  • Uncomfortable emotions serve as signals, alerting us when we are out of sync with what matters to us. Feelings like frustration, sadness, or anxiety may prompt us to reflect and reassess our path.

Without emotions, we would be incapable of making decisions, appreciating beauty, feeling pain, or expressing empathy. This underscores the necessity of emotions in navigating our lives and finding fulfillment.

The emotional foundation is present from birth, as newborns navigate the world based on feelings of comfort or discomfort, hunger or satiety, and warmth or cold. As we develop, rationality slowly starts to play a role, but our emotional foundation continues to influence our thoughts and actions, often more than we realize.

The Journey to Embracing Emotions

Embracing our emotions is not always an easy task, especially when we encounter resistance stemming from societal expectations, past experiences, or internal conflicts. However, overcoming this resistance is essential for developing a healthy relationship with our emotions.

To pause and create space for stillness is to open a doorway to our inner emotional world, transcending external influences and internal conflicts.

Understanding Emotions and Feelings

Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.

- Carl Jung

What are Emotions? The Underlying Force

  • Etymology and Drive: The term “emotion” comes from the Latin word “emovere,” meaning “to stir up” or “to agitate.” Reflecting this, emotions are the driving force that propel us into action, from the fight-or-flight response of fear to the quiet contentment that encourages bonding.

  • Rooted in Adaptation: Emotions are time-tested solutions to adaptive problems, directing our attention based on what has proven beneficial in the past.

  • Evolutionary Timeline: They have evolved over more than a million years, making the last ten thousand years a negligible period in the context of our innate emotional tendencies. While our fundamental emotional responses are deeply rooted in our evolutionary past, the way we express these emotions is significantly shaped by our life experiences and cultural context.

  • Genetic Coding: Some emotional responses are genetically encoded in our nervous system, serving as instinctive reactions that facilitated survival in our evolutionary history (e.g., an automatic smile at a friendly face, freezing or fleeing upon seeing some danger)

  • Differentiating Emotion Types: There are three basic types of emotions:
  1. Moods: Long-lasting, lower-intensity emotional states that color our perception of the world.
  2. Affects: Short-lived, intense emotions that arise in response to a specific event.
  3. Passions: Deep, enduring emotional states tied to specific objects or beliefs.

What are Feelings? The Conscious Experience

  • The Mind’s Interpretation: Feelings arise when our brain interprets an emotional reaction, giving it context and meaning. This is a slower, more reflective process.
  • Duration and Complexity: Feelings can linger long after the initial emotional response has subsided. They are complex, influenced by our personal experiences, beliefs, and thoughts.

Feelings indeed represent our conscious awareness of emotions, but the level of awareness can vary significantly from person to person and from one situation to another. The process of becoming aware of our feelings is complex and can be influenced by several factors.

  1. Emotional Response: First, an emotional response is triggered by an internal or external stimulus. This response is automatic and can be influenced by our genetic coding, past experiences, and the current context.
  2. Physiological Changes: The emotional response leads to physiological changes in the body, such as changes in heart rate, breathing, or facial expressions.
  3. Interpretation: The brain then interprets these physiological changes, taking into account the original stimulus and the context. This interpretation is what we consciously experience as feelings.
  4. Awareness: The level of awareness can be influenced by factors such as attention, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence. Some people may be more tuned into their feelings and able to identify and describe them accurately, while others might not pay as much attention to their emotional state.
  5. Expression: Feelings can then lead to an emotional expression, which can be verbal or non-verbal. Some expressions of emotion are automatic and hard to control, while others can be regulated.

“Feedback Loop”: The Interplay Between Emotions and Feelings

The relationship between emotions and feelings creates a dynamic feedback loop, where feelings don’t just passively arise from emotions but also actively contribute to shaping future emotional responses. This continuous interaction plays a pivotal role in developing our emotional intelligence.

While feelings are indeed a conscious experience, they can sometimes feel almost automatic, as the transition from an immediate emotional response to a conscious feeling can occur swiftly and seamlessly. Furthermore, some emotional responses are so habitual and ingrained that we might not consciously recognize the feelings they elicit unless we make a concerted effort to tune into our emotional state.

This nuanced perspective highlights the complexity of our emotional lives and underscores the importance of cultivating awareness and understanding of our own emotional experiencing. As a supportive tool in your journey, I created this "Emotion Healing Meditation". It s a 20min transformative practice to help deepen your connection with the world of your emotions.

Disconnection from Emotions and Feelings

Some people may experience a disconnection from their emotions, becoming out of touch with both emotions and feelings. This disconnection can hinder self-understanding, forming connections with others, and navigating life's complexities.

Impact on Mental Health

The inability to connect with one's emotions can lead to emotional numbness, muting feelings of joy, sadness, or anger, and contributing to:

  • Emptiness
  • Isolation
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Anxiety

Impact on Relationships

Emotional disconnection impacts relationships, compromising emotional intelligence, and leading to challenges in:

  • communication
  • empathy, and
  • emotional intimacy.

In relationships, this might manifest as difficulty in expressing affection, an inability to offer emotional support, or challenges in understanding or responding to a partner’s emotional needs. Such dynamics can lead to frustration, misunderstanding, and a sense of disconnect between partners, potentially straining the relationship.

Embracing and understanding our emotions and feelings is crucial for personal growth, mental well-being, and building healthy relationships.

Embracing connection: Hands intertwined in a symbol of understanding, empathy, and the deep emotional bonds that strengthen relationships.

Developing a Deeper Connection with Emotions

Having laid the groundwork on understanding the pivotal role of emotions and feelings in our lives, we now turn our attention to cultivating a deeper, more profound connection with our emotions.

Strategies for Overcoming Resistance to Experiencing Emotions

To navigate through this resistance, we need effective strategies that allow us to safely and constructively engage with our emotions, even those that are uncomfortable or painful. This involves creating a supportive environment, practicing self-compassion, and cultivating a mindset of curiosity and openness toward our emotional experiences.

1. Building a Supportive Network:

  • Surround Yourself with Understanding People: Cultivate relationships with friends, family, or colleagues who are empathetic and understanding. Being around individuals who validate your feelings and provide a non-judgmental space can encourage you to express your emotions freely.
  • Seek Professional Help if Necessary: Sometimes, the guidance of a therapist or counselor can provide the necessary support to work through complex or overwhelming emotions.

2. Practicing Self-Compassion:

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a close friend in a similar situation. Recognize that experiencing a wide range of emotions is a part of being human.
  • Give Yourself Permission to Feel: Allow yourself to feel your emotions without judgment. Understand that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, anxious, or any other emotion.

3. Cultivating a Mindset of Curiosity and Openness:

  • Approach Emotions with Curiosity: Instead of avoiding or suppressing emotions, try to approach them with a sense of curiosity. Ask yourself questions like “What is this emotion trying to tell me?” or “What can I learn from this experience?”
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment with an open and non-judgmental attitude. Engaging in mindfulness practices can help you become more aware of your emotions and create a space between feeling an emotion and reacting to it.

4. Challenging Negative Beliefs About Emotions:

  • Identify and Challenge Beliefs: Reflect on any negative beliefs you may hold about emotions, such as “Emotions are a sign of weakness” or “I should always be happy.” Challenge these beliefs and replace them with more balanced and constructive views.

  • For example challenging “Emotions are a sign of weakness”:

                * Belief: “Showing my emotions means I’m weak and vulnerable.”

                 * Constructive Response: “Experiencing and expressing my emotions is a sign of courage and strength. It takes bravery to be authentic and true to myself.”

                 * Balanced Belief: “Emotions are a natural part of being human and experiencing a full life. They provide valuable information about my needs and boundaries.                  Being in touch with my emotions empowers me to navigate through life with resilience and wisdom.

  • Educate Yourself About Emotions: Understanding the role and purpose of emotions can help change your perspective and reduce resistance. Educate yourself through books, articles, or workshops on emotional intelligence and emotional regulation.

5. Developing Emotional Regulation Skills:

  • Learn Healthy Coping Strategies: Develop a toolkit of healthy coping strategies for dealing with difficult emotions, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  • Practice Tolerating Discomfort: Building your tolerance for emotional discomfort is like building a muscle; it takes time and practice. Start with small steps and gradually expose yourself to emotions you find challenging in a controlled and safe manner.

Sometimes, emotions and their energy can become trapped in our bodies, particularly when these emotions are neglected or not fully addressed. Rather than simply fading away, overlooked, suppressed or inadequately processed emotions can embed themselves within us, manifesting as a variety of symptoms. To navigate the journey of emotional release, I encourage you, dear reader, to discover '10 Self-Help Strategies to Release Trapped Emotions' for effective ways to free these emotional blockages.

Tools and Techniques for Emotional Mastery

Emotional mastery is a journey that extends beyond mere acknowledgment of our emotions and feelings; it necessitates a diverse toolkit and robust strategies to delve into the depths of our emotional world, cultivating understanding, acceptance, and non-attachment. To get deeper to this topic, I recommend reading this article, which offers 5 steps journey to master your emotions.

Expanding Emotional Vocabulary and Reflection

Emotional Vocabulary: At the core of emotional mastery is the ability to put our feelings into words. A nuanced emotional vocabulary allows us to pinpoint specific emotions, moving beyond basic descriptors like "happy" or "sad" to more precise terms such as "content," "elated," "disappointed," or "melancholic." This precision not only enhances our self-expression but also enriches our emotional intelligence.

Emotional Reflection: Coupled with an extensive emotional vocabulary is the practice of reflection. Taking time to ponder our emotional reactions, understanding their triggers, and acknowledging their impact on our behavior is paramount. This reflective process aids in unraveling the complexities of our emotions, fostering insight, and facilitating change when necessary.

Methods for Understanding and Processing Emotions

  1. Journaling: Engaging in writing, such as keeping a journal, provides a confidential and cathartic avenue for expressing our innermost thoughts and feelings. This act of externalizing our emotions can lead to a clearer mind, reduced stress, and a better understanding of ourselves.
  2. Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices and meditation cultivate a state of awareness and presence, enabling us to observe our emotions without immediate reaction. These practices encourage a balanced emotional state, promoting calmness and equanimity.
  3. Art and Expressive Therapies: Engaging in artistic endeavors, whether it be painting, drawing, dancing, or playing a musical instrument, offers a unique pathway to emotional expression. Art can serve as a non-verbal mode of communication, providing an outlet for emotions that might be hard to express in words.
  4. Emotion-Focused Coping Strategies: Developing strategies that directly address and manage our emotions is crucial. This might involve learning to soothe ourselves when upset, finding healthy outlets for anger, or practicing gratitude to cultivate positive emotions.

Learning from Painful Emotions

Feel everything. Feel the depths of your sorrow, the heights of your joy.

- Neale Donald Walsch

Finding happiness in life is an active pursuit, one that requires us to embrace the full spectrum of our emotions, including the painful ones. It necessitates a willingness to engage with our emotions, understand their origins, and learn from them to cultivate a balanced and fulfilling emotional life.

Accepting the Polarity of Emotions

Life is full of ups and downs, and our emotional responses reflect this inherent polarity. By acknowledging the existence of both positive and negative emotions, we enable ourselves to navigate through life’s complexities with a more balanced perspective.

  • Not Dwelling on the Negative: While it’s essential to feel and understand our negative emotions, fixating on them can lead to a downward spiral. Learning to acknowledge them without becoming consumed by them is key to maintaining emotional balance.
  • Drawing Strength from the Positive: Positive emotions are a powerful resource, providing strength, resilience, and a buffer against the detrimental effects of negative emotions. Actively seeking out and savouring positive experiences enhances our well-being and provides a foundation for enduring happiness.

Reflecting on emotional complexities: A moment of introspection.

The Positive Aspects of Negative Emotions

Negative emotions, though uncomfortable, serve a vital role in our lives. They are messengers, signaling when something is amiss and highlighting areas that may need our attention.

1. Finding Value in Painful Emotions

  • Evolutionary Basis: Negative emotions have an evolutionary basis, serving as survival mechanisms to alert us to potential threats or unfavorable situations. Fear, for example, triggers the fight-or-flight response, preparing our bodies to respond to danger.
  • Strategies for Learning: Instead of shying away from negative emotions, we can approach them with curiosity and a willingness to learn. By exploring their origins and understanding their purpose, we can extract valuable insights and use them as catalysts for growth and change.

2. Managing Persistent Negative Emotions

  • Identifying Deeper Issues: Persistent negative emotions can be indicative of deeper, underlying issues. Being attuned to our emotional state helps in recognizing when it might be time to meet them on a deeper level or rather time to seek professional support.
  • Seeking Help: There is strength in seeking help. Therapy and counseling can provide a safe space to explore these emotions, understand their roots, and develop strategies for coping and healing.

3. Investing in Values and Building Resilience

Aligning our lives with our values, even when faced with challenging emotions, fosters resilience and a sense of purpose. By consciously choosing to invest our energy in what truly matters to us, we cultivate a life marked by authenticity, satisfaction, and well-being.

  • Promoting a Sense of Purpose: Engaging in activities and pursuits that align with our values instills a sense of purpose and meaning, acting as a powerful antidote to negative emotions.
  • Building Emotional Resilience: The ability to bounce back from adversity is built upon a foundation of emotional awareness and resilience. By learning from our negative emotions and harnessing the power of the positive, we fortify ourselves against life’s inevitable challenges.

Embracing our emotions, including the painful ones, is a journey toward a richer, more authentic life. It is a crucial step in building resilience, finding meaning, and unlocking the doors to genuine happiness and fulfillment. Furthermore, understanding how to embrace and direct emotional energy is crucial for the healing process. That is why wrote this '9 Steps Guide to Channel Emotion Energy' to help you learn how to transform emotional energy into powerful tools for personal growth and healing.

Embracing our emotions, including the painful ones, is a journey toward a richer, healthier and more authentic life This embrace is essential for building resilience, discovering meaning, and unlocking genuine happiness and fulfillment. Moreover, understanding and learning how to direct emotional energy is a crucial for the healing process. To aid you on this journey, I have crafted the '9 Steps Guide to Channel Emotion Energy'. This guide is designed to help you transform emotional energy into powerful tool for personal growth and healing.

Emotionally Intelligent Decision-Making

Accepting our emotions is the first step toward emotionally intelligent decision-making. The next crucial phase is learning how to translate this emotional awareness into emotionally intelligent choices that support long-term happiness and significantly increase our life quality.

Making Emotionally Intelligent Choices

How can be our awareness of emotions harnessed to make wise, reflective decisions that prioritize our long-term well-being over immediate gratification?

In a moment of reflection: Pondering decisions and life's direction.

Choosing Long-term Rewards Over Immediate Satisfaction

Our daily lives are filled with choices, and our emotions play a central role in these decision-making processes. However, not all choices are created equal.

          1. Analysis of Emotional Responses in Decision-Making

           To make emotionally intelligent choices, we must first understand how our emotions influence our decisions. This requires a deep analysis of our emotional            responses, discerning whether they are guiding us toward our true values or simply providing a fleeting sense of satisfaction.

         2. Strategies for Considering Long-Term Consequences

           Once we understand the role of emotions in our choices, we can employ strategies to ensure that we're considering the long-term consequences of our actions.            This involves learning to pause, reflect, and evaluate whether the immediate emotional reward aligns with our deeper values and long-term goals.

Identifying and Responding to Complex Emotions

Emotions are rarely straightforward, and different situations can evoke complex, multifaceted emotional responses. Developing emotional intelligence support us in navigating this complexity with precision and care.

       1. Understanding the Multifaceted Nature of Emotions

         To respond intelligently to our emotions, we must first understand their multifaceted nature. Different situations may trigger a mixture of emotions, each providing          unique insights into our values, needs, and desires.

       2. Identifying Emotions and Responding Constructively

         With this understanding, we can then move forward with practical techniques to accurately identify our emotions and respond in ways that are constructive and          aligned with our long-term well-being. This involves cultivating skills such as empathy, self-awareness, and emotional regulation.

Make Us Emotions Human?

Emotions are what make us human. Make us real. The word 'emotion' stands for energy in motion.

- Osho

In conclusion, our emotional landscape is not just a facet of our existence; it's the very terrain upon which our lives unfold. The journey through emotions is an expedition into the heart of what it means to be human. By embracing this journey, we open ourselves to a world where emotions are not just felt but understood and valued as crucial guides. This understanding fosters a profound sense of self-awareness and connection, not only with ourselves but also with the world around us.

It leads us to a place where emotional intelligence becomes a compass, directing us towards decisions and actions that resonate deeply with our innermost values and aspirations. Ultimately, the mastery of our emotional world paves the way for a life rich in authenticity, resilience, and fulfillment, transforming every challenge into an opportunity for growth and every experience into a step towards being a better version of ourselves.

Aya Rechenburg guides people to physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth. Welcome to a space dedicated to your self-discovery and transformation.