What can we learn from our emotions ?

But they’re not always caused by external factors: feelings can often arise solely from our own thoughts. Our emotions serve as a system of evaluation, helping us to orientate ourselves in our everyday lives.

Emotions as a system of evaluation

If we understand our emotions as an orientation aid, we gain valuable information throughout everyday life to help us make decisions. We feel intuitively which decision feels “right”, or which makes us feel more comfortable in the moment at least. We don’t just react mentally, but also physically, to internal or external triggers. When nervous, we often sweat profusely. When panicked, our hearts race. When we’re in love, we get butterflies in our stomachs. Our whole system sounds the alarm.

Even if we weigh up rational arguments for a forward-looking and reasonable decision, our first instinct tends to be the one that wins. There’s a reason why we often listen to our gut, and why this is a common saying. This emotional evaluation system is by no means complete; it is constantly defined and expanded with each new experience we have. The more intensely we feel a feeling, the more it remains anchored in our minds later on. That’s why we react to the same event differently, and in a way that reflects our personal experiences.

What can we learn from our emotions ?
Led by emotional triggers

When a negative experience or memory has been anchored in our minds particularly clearly, we react to similar events with corresponding intensity, mostly subconsciously. Triggered by key stimulus, we behave with excessive emotion and seemingly overact to the actual situation. We are simply incapable of having a rational reaction. Unfortunately, those around us often don’t understand what’s happening. We are completely led by our emotions and a conflict is probable although our feelings likely have little to do with the current situation. Both partners suffer from the chaos that has been generated.

If we often find ourselves in such situations and our behaviour is decided by emotional triggers, we should probably get to the bottom of things. To do so, we look to the past. At some point, someone—probably someone close to us—has hurt us so much with their conduct or something they said that we are still suffering the consequences. A change of perspective can help us to better understand the person’s context and the motivation behind their hurtful conduct. Most of the time, they will have been unaware of the significance of this incident, intending it in good faith rather than to upset us—even though their actions didn’t exactly meet the mark. Maybe this will let us come to peace with the past. If we are triggered again, the new experience will remain in the back of our minds and, with a lot of practice, this will serve to prevent an automatic reaction.

What can we learn from our emotions ?
Emotional regulation for more resilience

We like to class emotions as either positive or negative. But fundamentally, they are just there without any judgement. We’ve just reminded ourselves that the conscious perception of our emotions is a valuable foundation in decision-making but also that we are almost completely albeit temporarily controlled by it from time to time. Emotions can feel like a dark cloud, sometimes darkening our everyday lives. When we start brooding and spiralling into negative thoughts, we should urgently find a way to stop. Of course, we can tackle the root cause of our feelings, as this will give us valuable knowledge. But if we are suffering in this way over an extended period of time, we should shift our focus more often onto the positive aspects of our lives.

Learning emotional regulation is a challenging task in our childhood and a major life skill. Effective emotional regulation minimises the negative consequences of our emotions and helps ensure that our needs are not blocked. When we increasingly cultivate positive feelings, our resilience is increased. Resilience is the psychological ability to withstand things, and something that forearms us for daily challenges. Of course, it’s still possible to learn to regulate our emotions as adults through emotional training.

What can we learn from our emotions ?

Emotions are helpful companions in our everyday lives, helping us make decisions. And sometimes they let us clearly see what’s important in our own lives.

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