Can We Learn From Our Emotions?

by Chris Chittenden

"Look for the soul through the window of emotions.”

… Julio Olalla, Master Coach

Our emotions are a constant part of human life. We feel sad, happy, angry and frustrated. We feel guilty, ashamed and bored. All of this is a normal part of the human condition, yet most people have little understanding of the role emotions can play in life other than that they have emotions and prefer to seek to avoid feeling certain ways. In doing so, they may well be doing themselves a disservice.

Granted some of our emotional experiences are unpleasant. No one I have talked to about their emotional experiences enjoys feeling frustrated or sad. Yet each one of our emotional experiences is full of meaning for us and about us should we wish to look for it.

Our emotions play a significant role in directing our lives. When our emotions are serving us well, they provide us with cues about what is good and bad for us and predispose us to act in certain ways without trapping us in that emotional state. In other words, our emotional states should be dynamically and effectively responding to what is going on for us in the world. When thing as are going well, we can expect to feel happy and satisfied. When we lose something or someone, we can expect to feel sad or angry. On the other hand, our emotions can lead us astray. Rather than shifting dynamically as our situation changes, we can get caught up in emotional states that just hang around leading to moods that do not serve us well in life.

An awareness of our emotions can open up a window to understanding ourselves. If we are angry, we can reflect on why this is so and potentially uncover aspects of our way of being that have been closed to us. Very often, our stronger emotional reactions are pointing to something that is very important to us, yet it is something we may not yet be able to put into words. As a result, exploring our emotions can be a rich vein of learning.

Furthermore, our best interests are not always served by acting from our current emotional context. When we act from anger, then we can hurt someone, including ourselves. Even though most people emphasise the impacts of the so-called 'negative' emotions such as anger, the same can be said for all our emotions. For example, in most cultures, there is a clear dichotomy about being euphoric at a funeral.

The key to our emotional health lies in an awareness of our emotional states and what that means about us and a capacity to shift our emotional to one that serves us best going forward. For example, rather than acting out of anger we can seek to understand what is fuelling that emotion and look for more constructive ways to address our real concerns.

Welcome your emotions and learn from them. Just don't always let them play out.

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© 2015 Chris Chittenden