Rethinking Emotions

Let’s talk about emotions. What comes to mind when you think about emotions?

Have you ever considered that emotions are neither good nor bad? They may contribute to decisions, behaviors, or circumstances which can feel good or bad, but the emotions themselves are not good or bad. That’s not really how most of us treat our emotions though, right? Many of us spend our emotional energy trying to find ways to experience more of our “good” emotions and avoid our “bad” emotions. What if we treated all emotions morally neutral? What if emotions are not good or bad and are just uncomfortable and comfortable.

Let’s look at the purpose of emotions. Emotions give us data. They can help signal to us that something in our mind or environment may need our attention. Sometimes they can indicate that our values have been compromised. They may give us information about our unmet needs. Whatever the case may be, emotions are there to communicate with us. 

Allowing ourselves to slow down, observe and acknowledge our emotions not only gives us an opportunity to validate and listen to our emotions, it also gives us the space to respond mindfully instead of react impulsively. Many times what we call “bad” emotions are nothing more than behavior we engage in impulsively due to these emotions.

When I talk to clients about emotions I often compare them to bodily functions. Emotions happen to us. They are part of a healthy functioning body and mind. They don’t hold morality. They can be uncomfortable or inconvenient but they are not good or bad. They can be temporarily held off but not stopped completely. Imagine if we spoke about other bodily functions the way we speak about our emotions? “You shouldn’t let your stomach digest.” “Why did you go to the bathroom after drinking water?” “Stop sneezing.” “You’re a bad person for letting your elbow bend.” Absurd, right? Why do we treat emotions so differently?

Which emotions are on your “bad” list? What gets in the way of you allowing yourself to feel all your emotions? What if we allow emotions to just be without labeling them as good or bad?


Blog by Sara Pogue, MSW, LICSW
Photo by Josh Hild via Pexels