How to Learn from Your Emotions

by | THOUGHTS + EMOTIONS

november-1

 


“Generally speaking, if a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong. He’s not right in the brain.”  

The Dalai Lama


This quote by the Dalai Lama exemplifies how we judge negative emotions in our culture.

It was a response taken from an interview with him in Time Magazine in 2010 when he was asked if he ever feels angry or outraged.

His response was, “Oh yes, of course. I’m a human being. Generally speaking if a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong. He’s not right in the brain.”

Then he laughed.

In the context of the interview, he was half joking about the “not right in the brain” part but, nevertheless makes a good point.

The interviewer asked him this question under the presumption that anger or outrage is an emotion that is less “enlightened” or only expressed by those who are lesser than.

The Dalai Lama’s response was perfect.

Uncontrollable rage and destructive outbursts are one thing, but experiencing and even expressing anger is natural and human. It is the judgement of it that may cause the issues.

The consequences of judging ourselves for feeling emotions can make us view ourselves as morally inept or lesser than others. We categorize certain emotions such as hatred, anger, and disgust as unacceptable. For example what I was disgusted by say…..a puppy?

What kind of judgement would I have of myself morally, or as a human being?


DENYING VERSUS EXPERIENCING EMOTIONS

Self regulation of our emotions is something we all strive for, but some of us may confuse self regulation with suppression.

As a consequence, we never learn from what our emotions are trying to teach of and, instead, we press them down until they come out in destructive ways.

“Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing yourself is Enlightenment.”

Lao Tzu

 

So what happens when we try to “control” our emotions?

We miss the opportunity to learn from them.

When we judge our emotions as negative, we try to control them by suppressing them.

This suppression means we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience the emotions and eventually learn from them.

It also means that we risk our physical health because of the stress and anxiety we cause ourselves by allowing that critical inner voice.

It’s just like the Dalai Lama said, we’re human. That means we are supposed to experience the full spectrum of emotions.

 

LEARNING FROM OUR EMOTIONS

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”

Carl Jung

 

The first step toward learning from our emotions is to accept them.

It never helps to put certain emotions in the “bad” category and try to switch them off.

We need to acknowledge them and take steps to gain self-awareness through them.

Once we’ve accepted how we feel, we can distance ourselves from our feelings enough to then reflect on them.  We may not know right away where certain feelings are coming from, but over time we can keep learning more and more about ourselves by accepting them as tools for helping us learn about ourselves.

Easier said than done at times, but like anything else, it’s a process.