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The Importance of Listening to your Emotions

This article first appeared on The Online Citizen.

If you accidentally touched a hot stove, the nerves in your skin would shoot a message of pain to your brain. The brain then sends a message back telling the muscles in your hand to pull away. Is that a bad thing?

No, you would answer. What a ridiculous question, you might retort. Hear me out.

Physical stimuli we receive, or thoughts we have, produce physiological responses as well as further thoughts which tell us how to react to a situation. By adulthood we learn to become pretty good at discerning what is good or bad for us physically. We listen to the safety messages our body sends us.

Yet why do we not listen to what our heart tells us? How can so many people persistently dismiss, deny, or worse, lose touch with their emotions? Our emotions are the result of our mind’s interpretation between our bodies and its sense perceptions of the outside world. Much like the way our physical feelings preserve and ensure our survival, our emotional feelings are developed, refined and perfected through time.

The word ‘emotion’ does not refer to the same thing as ‘emotional’. Yet emotions are usually perceived as a bad thing. We may downplay emotions, seeing it as a sign of weakness. We may even underestimate problems by overlooking negative emotions. Not only that, in denying our feelings and rationalising our problems with our mind, we miss out on real solutions and holistic healing. We are so quick in running away from ‘bad’ feelings that we stand to also lose the renewal that positive emotions can encourage. We are numb. We have lost our true innate ability to survive. Our energy and reserves have run out.

Feelings need not be judged or labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They just are. Negative feelings can warn and help us in particular situations. These are quite normal and necessary for mature behaviour. The inability to express and channel negative feelings is limiting and blocks whole and mature functioning. At its worst, it is crippling. Feelings are often more honest than our minds in telling us “where we are at.” It is not an intellectual reply. It is a response that comes from your core – from your gut.

This is why one of the first things a counsellor will do with a new client is to assess how the person feels. Very often, the client themselves is confused about his or her feelings. It is easy enough to verbalise what one thinks consciously, but harder to communicate what one feels from deep within. If there is no congruence of how one feels (emotions), the way one thinks (rational intent), and what one does (volition), a person cannot be whole. An effective counsellor helps to bring these feelings out, and facilitates the integration of such feelings into the client’s conscious assessment of what is wrong and how one should proceed.

It is helpful to become more aware of your emotional needs as a first step towards self-love. When we become better at identifying and expressing our emotional feelings, we invariably also become more socially adept in establishing and building relationships. The more adept we are at identifying and expressing emotional feelings, the better we feel and the better our relationships will be.

I end with a quote by Robert Hendi: “Cherish your emotions and never undervalue them.”

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Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email drmarthalee@eroscoaching.com.

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