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The Importance of Emotions: Understanding Their Purpose in Our Lives


What's the point of our emotions? Why do we have to "sit with them"? Why can't I just figure out why I feel this way, so I can figure out how to "fix it"? These are all questions I've heard before. They're even questions that I've contemplated in my own healing journey. What's amazing about this particular set of questions, is that they're actually answerable! Let's take a look at each one...

What's the point of our emotions?

In simplest terms, our emotions are information. They are not "good" or "bad". Rather, they are data points that tell us about our experiences, our relationships, and most importantly, our needs. When we learn to identify our emotions and listen to the messages they are sending us, we can more easily identify and meet our needs, set and work towards our goals, relate to others, problem solve, focus, and find fulfillment in life. Instead, when we have learned to repress or deny our emotions, we can often feel like we're floating through life, and might feel disconnected, dissatisfied, drained, and confused as to why life feels this way.

Why do we have to "sit with them"?

Before diving into this question, let's explore what it even means to "sit with" your emotions. Sitting with emotions does not always mean literally sitting down and being in your feelings (although, that's important too!) Sometimes sitting with your emotions means finding a form of movement that can help release the physical energy of them. Sometimes it means journaling about them or talking them out with a friend or a therapist. Most generally, to sit with your emotions means that you take time to be present with them. To acknowledge them with compassion and listen to their message with curiosity. It means that we don't push them away, deny them, suppress them or resist them.

This is important for a number of reasons. Our emotions are not only information, but they are also energy in motion. Have you ever noticed that when you feel something like anger, excitement, nervousness, or sadness, the emotion is accompanied by a physical experience? Maybe there’s tingling, or heaviness, or a sense of being energized. No matter the experience, emotions come with physical sensations because they are meant to move us in some way: they are meant to motivate us to meet a need.

When we ignore them and don't honour the necessary next

steps, we lock our emotions inside. This is when we make decisions based on external cues, such as the expectations or desires of others, leading to a life that doesn't feel like our own. Ignoring our emotions also means that the emotional energy will build up and will get more and more intense, until we can’t ignore it any longer. This is often when things like injuries, illnesses, or burnout can happen. This is why there is power in learning to "sit with it" and holding space for all of our internal experiences.

Why can't we just figure out why I feel this way, and so we can figure out how to "fix it"?

Now that we know that emotions are information, this question is a lot simpler to answer. When it comes to emotions, our goal is not to "solve" or "fix" them, because they are not problems, and they are not broken. Rather, our goal is to approach with curiosity and listen to what they are telling us. With that information, we can then make a choice that feels most aligned with us in that moment.

That being said, there is room to get curious about why certain emotions come up, especially if there is a pattern that you notice with them. Though emotions are information, they are not our absolute truth and they do not define us. If you notice a very big emotion coming up often, then there may be a deeper wound that has not had the chance to fully heal. Maybe the original pain was never listened to, and maybe now it shows up as anger and resentment, even in situations that are completely separate from the original wound. This is still important information: when your body tells you "hey, this still hurts!" it is in an invitation to give yourself the love and care that you had needed at the time, without projecting that responsibility onto the people around you in present day.

Putting It Altogether

Let's take a look at anger as an example. Anger is often trying to tell us something very important about our boundaries. Maybe someone crossed a boundary by treating you unfairly or by being insulting. Feeling angry is a very natural response to this treatment, and acknowledging your anger can help you understand what needs to happen next. Perhaps you need to state a boundary with this person, or perhaps you need to walk away from the interaction. This process of identifying and sitting with anger might sound something like: "I feel angry. I feel it as my jaw clenching and my face turning red. What might it be telling me? I don't like how I'm being treated. What do I need next?"

However, since anger is seen as a "bad emotion", it often gets disregarded, downplayed, or suppressed altogether. If we don't take the time to identify our anger, we will not understand the need for a boundary and therefore will not set any boundary. We might continue to accept this treatment, and not understand why it feels so bad to us. Since it doesn't get released, the anger may manifest physically as digestive issues or chronic pain. We may push through these pains and these interactions until our body shuts us down, or on the opposite side of the spectrum, until we snap.

In light of all of this, I invite you to tune in to your body. Take note of what it is feeling and what it’s telling you that it needs. Your body’s sole purpose is to keep you alive and healthy. Every cell in your being is collaborating to support you. Perhaps it’s time to lovingly work with it, and move through some of the emotions that may be trapped with in, however that looks for you. If you need any assistance with this, therapy is a great avenue to pursue, and I am happy to talk more about emotional processing in a 15 minute consultation!

With warmth,

Alessia Manzoli

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