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Emotions are data.

How Negative Emotions Can Help You

care and feeding of the mind Sep 02, 2020

Frankly, this is a great time to examine our own fears and insecurities. Maybe that's not a topic you want to read about just now. But hang with me for a moment.

What if emotions like fear and anxiety have vital functions for our minds?

Karla McClaren, a researcher on emotions, has looked at the role that "negative" emotions play in our ability to think and make choices. She's concluded something that you may find very useful: emotion is part of our cognition, and each so-called "negative" emotion helps pose a valuable question for us. If we look at the answers to those questions, we gain power, choice and freedom.

  1. Anxiety asks: How do I need to prepare for this situation? Answering that question gives you the power to choose what you do and gives you back some control over the future. That's useful!
  2. Fear asks: What are the risks? What do I need to do to protect myself (or others)? The answers will give you more power, choice and a greater degree of freedom to respond.
  3. Anger asks: What value is being violated for me? When you know what value is being violated, you can begin to figure out what to do about it.
  4. Sadness asks: What am I losing, or what have I lost? When you understand what the loss is about, you can give yourself room to grieve and options for self-care that are healthier than what happens when you try to cover up the sadness.
  5. Grief asks: Who will I be now? And what will become of me after this loss? When you face this question with compassion for yourself, you get to choose more consciously how you want to move forward from this loss.

It's hard to get good answers to those questions when you're judging yourself for being upset and telling yourself to "stop being emotional." When you're really stuck in the feeling, it's hard to be anything but stuck. 

The first thing you need to know is that it's not your fault--it's physiology!

In fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, grief and upset, your physiology shuts down your brain, starting with the part in front where your Executive Brain function is, and you go into Survival Mode (Fight, Flight, Freeze, etc.). When you go into Survival Mode, you lose access to the parts of your brain (and therefore your mind) that hold your best, mature problem-solving and creative abilities. You end up repeating old thought loops and behavior patterns that no longer serve you, that you learned in childhood to survive. Generally, those old survival strategies don't work so well for you now, do they?

What you can do instead is notice and observe what your mind is doing: What is that thought loop you're in now? Is this how you learned to survive in childhood when upsetting things happened? How is this situation now similar to when you first felt this way? The trick is to notice and observe without judgement, because the judgment will short-circuit the process of gaining useful information from your current emotional state.

What do you get from paying more attention to how you feel?

  1. When you drop the judgment toward yourself for having feelings, you get to be a human being experiencing "e-motion," that is, "energy in motion." You begin to regain and harness your own energy.
  2. You gain access to *valuable information* that is part of your cognitive process, in other words, an inner guidance system that asks and answers important questions about what you want and need.
  3. You open a door to the gift that is on the other side of the upset: answers to the questions the feeling poses that will give you choice, freedom and power.
  4. You get the benefit of your own intuition and higher guidance from within. Every one of us has a "wiser voice" inside us, and you'll receive those good inner promptings more easily.
  5. You can take back your own power. Like just about everyone else in this culture, you've probably been trained since childhood to put feelings aside and "use your head" to figure things out. Our culture gives strong messages that emotions make you weak, dependent, unpredictable, unreliable, and generally unworthy of adult consideration.

Those "pulling the levers of power" in society know that cutting people off from their own inner guidance makes them easier to manipulate and control. Getting us to use only the "rational" parts of our brains, dehumanizes us and allows certain elements in our society to take advantage and dominate the more intuitive, empathetic, compassionate and generally receptive or "feminine" kinds of people in the world.

Hardening people against their own feelings also allows those in power to get others to lose their own empathetic tendencies and do the bidding of those in power. Whether it's the desire to be like those in power (rich, famous, well-respected, etc.), or by association to feel powerful (when otherwise feeling powerless), or a survival instinct based competition rather than cooperation, or a feeling of victimhood, or some combination, too many people have gone along with the hijacking of the world.

What we need is a new harmonizing with all parts of ourselves, including our feelings as an inner guide that is part of our cognition. This new harmonizing begins with each one of us, individually.

I invite you to consider looking at your fears, upsets, insecurities and other uncomfortable emotions as access points to healing, discovering what you really want and need, and guiding you to new choices, freedoms and power. When you drop the judgement about how you feel and approach those feelings as data and as useful questions with valuable answers, you'll uncover more creativity and energy than you ever knew you had.

Here's to you, your emotions, and all the good they can do you!


Jackie Ambrow, M.A., C.Ht., Transformational Anthropologist, Certified Hypnotherapist, Advanced EFT Practitioner, and, of course, one of your Joy Gypsies

P.S. If you want to talk with me further about how to do this, let me know. I'm available for private, remote sessions. You can also join our monthly membership, Joy Gypsies Thrive Club, where like-minded people like you work together to transform your world, right where you are.


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