The Importance of Listening to Your Emotions

Apr 10, 2023

There is a great book called “The Body Keeps the Score”, by Bessel Van Der Kolk.

It explains in detail what stress, trauma, grief and painful emotions do to us, when they are ignored or dealt with in unhealthy ways. When we avoid, bury and distract ourselves from our emotions, we are only delaying the inevitable. Pain, sadness, trauma, grief- they all stay within us and attach to every cell, if we don’t address our emotions and feelings.

True emotional healing doesn’t happen without feeling. The only way out is to go through.

We live in a world of quick fixes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to heal quickly, but the risk is toxic positivity and bypassing what needs to be addressed. Picking yourself up and dusting yourself off is fine, IF, you’ve allowed yourself to feel what needs to be felt. The idea is not to sit in the past or the pain, but if you don’t allow yourself to feel it all and deal with it- how do you ever hope to heal and grow? We don’t ignore a broken leg, or a heart attack so why would we ignore emotional pain?
I see it all too often. Social Media is littered with “experts” who offer quick fixes, usually with a high cost involved, little if any qualifications, offering unhealthy or at times dangerous advice. When we are in an emotionally vulnerable space and desperate to not be there, we sometimes take on board these “quick fixes”. Unless someone is working with you individually, knows your unique set of circumstances and has the qualifications to support you on your journey- they are causing you more issues in the long run. Quick fixes are often very short lived because we are not dealing with the root cause of the problems.

Let’s have a closer look at some of our emotions

Bitterness shows you’re still holding judgements and hostility towards others and maybe yourself. Bitter people can be angry, judgemental and nasty people because bitterness is unhappiness. Bitterness will forever change you if you let it, it will drain your own energy and the energy of those around you. Self-reflection and identifying the reason for the bitterness is key to changing and growing. Sadly, oftentimes bitter people lack the self-awareness and insight to want to change their behaviour.

Resentment shows you that you’re living in the past and not allowing the present to be as it is. A multilayered emotion with a mixture of disappointment, disgust, anger and fear. Resentment will eat you alive if you don’t address it. Sometimes it requires professional help to unpack and find the root cause.

Discomfort shows you that you need to pay attention right now to what is happening, because you are being given the opportunity to change, to do something different to how you typically do things. Discomfort is the precursor for change- the knowing in your body that you need to look what’s holding you in your comfort zone. Don’t dismiss it or try to avoid it- this is how we grow.

Anger shows what you are passionate about, where your boundaries are, and what you believe needs to change about the world. Anger is often a manifestation of fear. When we are scared of losing something or someone, it can manifest in anger. Sit with it and feel what it is and where it’s sitting in your body. It’s important to identify what’s driving your anger so you can learn how to address these emotions.

Disappointment shows that you tried for something, that you did not give in to apathy, that you still care. It is the displeasure caused by non-fulfilment of hopes and expectations.

Guilt helps you understand the person that you do not want to be and the behaviours you want to change. It gives you the opportunity to be honest and seek forgiveness and forgive yourself. Guilt has the ability to cause such destruction. If we don’t acknowledge our guilt and speak our truth, we live with that torment slowly destroying us forever. Facing your guilt and being honest takes an enormous amount of courage- living with lies, will slowly kill you. Own it and heal it.

Shame shows you that you are internalising other people’s beliefs about who you should be (or who you are) and that you need to reconnect to yourself. It could be from a regrettable action or situation, or sometimes because of the judgement of others. We allow who we are or who we become to be created by others beliefs, becoming inauthentic to who we are inside and losing connection to self. Shame will leave you in a pit of humiliation and/or distress and has the potential to cause you great mental and physical anguish.

Sadness shows you the depth of your feelings, the depth of your care for others and this world. People too often try and hide their sadness because they feel it makes others uncomfortable, or they don’t want to be seen as being “negative”. Truth is we all get sad sometimes and we need to feel it and acknowledge why we feel this way.

It’s really important to listen to our emotions. Feel where they are sitting in your body. Can you identify the triggers? Do you know what’s at the root cause? Has a recent issue triggered a previous trauma or unhealthy belief system? You maybe able to positive think an emotion away, but you are not addressing the triggers for these emotions. You maybe able to distract yourself from your emotions for a period of time, but eventually they will resurface. You maybe able to sweep them under the rug and bury them but nothing will remain in the darkness forever.

It’s not always possible to do alone and it’s more than okay to seek support when needed. It’s about being open and honest with yourself and self-aware enough to know when you need some extra help with your emotions. Sometimes taking on other’s emotions and energy depletes your own and that too is normal, so do whatever it is you need to do to support your emotions.

My qualified advice is never let anyone discourage you from actually feeling your emotions. That’s bypassing and it is toxic. Remember your broken leg does not heal by ignoring it. It heals by treating the root cause of the break and then ongoing therapy to ensure it and you have recovered.

Your emotions are important because you are important.