Informed by emotion = Powered by emotion

Imagine if we could experience our feelings in such a way that we knew what they were good for, even when they hurt the most. What if we acknowledged vulnerability as the gateway to our needs and the bond in our relationships? Seeing others’ vulnerability elicits our empathy and makes our heart warm for others. 

Imagine everyone knowing that we’re all anxious and scared from time to time and understanding that this is what keeps us safe from danger and alive. Imagine accepting that when we’re afraid of something that isn’t harmful, we need support to manage it, not avoid it. 

Being sad is not a weakness. It’s a natural reaction when we lose something important and meaningful, miss someone we love, or long for what we never had. What if we recognized that the need of sadness is closeness and comfort, not solitary suffering in silence and isolation. What if we knew how to soothe ourselves when we hurt, instead of beating ourselves up for not being strong enough? I wish we dared to trust that grieving our own unmet needs would enable us to let go and move forward.

Remorse, even shame and guilt, are normal feelings that help us to know right from wrong. However, our tendency to blame and criticize ourselves can make shame so overwhelming that we shrink and want to curl up in a ball, wanting to disappear or even to die. Imagine instead being able to apologize and repair when we feel guilty, and when we feel ashamed, to accept our need for recognition and acceptance – not just from others, but even more, from ourselves 

What if we recognized anger as the fuel for adaptive assertiveness? Healthy anger empowers us to stand up for ourselves and others, and for what’s important to us. It can help to empower healthy boundaries, say “No” when we need to, protect ourselves, restore confidence when threatened, and overcome obstacles to achieving our goals.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know the difference between being angry because someone violated our integrity, and being angry when we really are scared, ashamed or lonely? Or when we get scared because we really are angry, but don’t dare to speak up? Or when we cry when we really are angry? Or when we’re ashamed because we don’t want to feel the way we feel, or recognize our vulnerability, and the solution becomes putting a lid on the bad feelings in order to avoid them?  

Imagine if we could just feel whatever we’re feeling, let our feelings inform us of what we need and what’s important and meaningful to us, and let this give direction to our thoughts and actions. 

Imagine finding the courage to express our heartfelt needs, instead of blaming others for not giving us what we need. 

All of this becomes hard to live by when we get hijacked by feelings, where the feelings have us instead of us having the feeling – when anger becomes hot fury , when shame burns our cheeks and make us sick to our stomach, when sadness breaks our heart, or when fear freezes our limbs into numb paralysis. 

Imagine if we all had the experience of having our emotional needs met so that feelings made sense to us from early on. Imagine if people who cared for us could make feelings matter by validating them, even when the feeling is totally incomprehensible or they don’t agree with it, even when feelings go off like fireworks from just one little spark, even when feelings barely whisper. What if we had that person who would listen carefully, help us to recognize feelings in our body, and help us to put words to our feelings to make them reasonable? What if they could meet our sadness with closeness and comfort, our fear with security and protection, our anger with acceptance of our will and boundaries, and our shame with normalization and recognition? 

What if that made us able to go out into the world with a basic trust, a belief that “there will be someone there for me, who’ll have my back no matter what, who’ll protect me and hold me when I’m unable to hold myself, accept me unconditionally and acknowledge me for just being who I am, without the need to perform?”

What kind of a world would that be?

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