Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Feel Good Emotions

People say that there are good and bad emotions. For me, emotions are just emotions. It is want you do with those emotions, how you allow them to affect you and how they direct your actions that count. Those emotions that have been deemed “bad” have gotten a bum wrap. Is anger really all that bad? There are plenty of things to be angry about in this world. Is guilt really all that bad? If you are guilty doesn’t that tell you something? Is fear really all that bad? Doesn’t fear have a usefulness?

People constantly try to push away or ignore those emotions that they view as “bad”. I think the reaction to an emotion is far more important. Being angry at someone, in and of itself, is not bad. That person did something to elicit the emotion you are feeling. Ignoring the emotion or pretending it is something it is not is denying yourself of the full potential of the experience. It is denying yourself of the full potential for personal growth. It is the way you channel that feeling that is good or bad. The feeling, itself, is neutral.

For an example from a recent blog post…I became so angered at someone that I literally threw something at them. (It was just in their direction!). It was not the best way to handle the situation. There were many other options. I allowed my emotion of anger to elicit a bad action. This response to my anger is what is bad. The anger, itself, is neutral. On the flip side, if I am angered by some social injustice and I take part in an effort to correct it, I am reacting to my anger in a good way. The anger, itself, is still neutral.

If I feel guilty for something I did, the guilt is just another feeling. It is how I act on that guilt that is good or bad. Am I going to continue to do whatever it is that created the emotion of guilt? Not recognizing guilt and not being open to what guilt is trying to tell you is bad. The guilt, itself, is neutral. Am I going to try to make the situation right? Am I going to make it a point to never do it again? Understanding what guilt is trying to tell you and learning from the experience is good. The guilt, itself, is still neutral.

Fear is an interesting emotion.In many cases we do not even understand the nature of the emotion yet it is so strong that is can overwhelm us. I am terrified of tight spaces. Don’t care for elevators and have to be sedated for an MRI. (I don’t care how “open” the darn thing is!!) I also don’t feel comfortable in large crowds. I can not deny that I have this fear. I have no rational reason for it; it is just there! However my fear is not “bad”. It is just an emotion. It is how I allow my fear to affect my life that is important. Am I going to miss the once in a lifetime concert because I am fearful of crowds? Am I going to miss out on a great experience because I am fearful of tight spaces? Allowing fear to deny you of experience is bad. The fear, itself, is neutral. Yet, fear can also help make you aware of dangerous situations and help you be cautious when caution is prudent. The fear, itself, is still neutral.

For contrast, let’s look at am emotion that is generally deemed “good”. What about happiness? Can happiness ever be “bad”? Happiness can sometimes have a very blinding effect on people. Take this theoretical example, a woman has just found out she is pregnant. She is ecstatic. She could not be happier. It is all she can think about and all she can talk about. Unfortunately, she has been blinded by her happiness and forgets that her friend’s son just died. The upset her happiness has caused her to, unintentionally, inflict on her friend is bad. Happiness, itself, is neutral.

So to categorize emotions as good and bad is pointless. Instead we should focus on what those emotions make us do or say. Be more aware of the result of your emotions. How do those emotions effect your decisions? How do they effect your actions? What choices do you make because of them? What lessons do you learn from them? You might be amazed at how different your outlook is once you accept your emotions and examine the effect they have on the whole.

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