Have you ever been told that you are too emotional or too sensitive? Yep, me too. There is a socially popular belief that suggests emotions are “silly”, irrational, or a sign of weakness. There is an assumption present that “emotion” is on the opposite end of the “intellect” spectrum (a personal aside: I am known for challenging all-or-nothing thinking).
Here’s the thing:
You know how we are not very successful at suppressing our bodily functions? (think about how hard it is to suppress a burp, a sneeze, blinking, vomiting…). The body function usually wins out, right? Such bodily functions are NORMAL. So too are our emotions. Emotions are useful signals to alert us to what is going on. Can they gauge things inaccurately? Sure. But their accuracy increases when we stop trying to numb, deny, suppress them. Our emotional reactivity comes from a combination of our lived experiences and an expression of our values and beliefs. The more self-awareness we have, the greater sense of mastery we will possess around understanding our thoughts and reactions to them.
Consider for a moment the differing concepts of “thinkingness” (intellectualizing) and awareness.
Thinkingness includes your mental thoughts, labeling and identifying things, planning, striving, assessing, analyzing, et cetera.
Awareness allows you access to the elements of thinkingness, but also your body sensations, emotions, and spiritual energy. Awareness is being curious, accepting, and open about what is going on – noticing without judgement (what is known as mindfulness).
We all have strong emotional reactions to certain things. For example, I have a strong reaction to social injustices. This reaction alerts me to my value and belief systems, but also my lived experience. Without awareness of this, I could run the risk of becoming a “bully” to a bully (oppressor/systemic abuse) – the very behaviour I loathe. Instead, I chose to use my outrage to advocate from a more grounded place for those who are being oppressed. I also have a strong emotional reaction to talent contests or athletic competitions. There is something that moves me to tears about watching people put their heart and soul into something. Once upon a time I was embarrassed by this. I now feel that that being emotionally moved is a gift. Connecting with another’s passion and grit to put their all into achieving their dreams is truly beautiful.
Consider how things might shift for you if you embrace a sense of curiosity towards your emotional reactivity.