Let’s talk about emotions… WHY? Because “they are meant” to be talked about. That’s the only way they work! Just like our skeleton contains our organs, our nervous system contains all our emotions.
The Evolutionary Perspective
Emotions have always been programmed in human body to be felt, primarily for our survival, secondarily for us to “live and experience” of what it feels like to be a human. Whatever we do from sleeping, eating, stressing, relaxing, there is always an emotion or cluster of feelings supporting our experiences.
What a paradox it is to accept that we are emotionally charged beings who don’t give attention or importance to this very concept which basically motivates us for everything we do.
The easier said than done solution especially when it comes to emotional fluctuation is “balance”. Emotions when felt in right amount bring us closer to ourself. On the contrary when emotional brain hijacks us, it gets all cloudy, messy, chaotic, scary and what not!
Let us first educate about the utility/purpose of emotions so as to truly understand its importance:
Emotions serve an adaptive role of carrying distinctive signals for helping us in our chances of successful survival and motivate us to take required actions. They are the specialised states, shaped by natural selection, to increase fitness in specific situations. The physiological, psychological and behavioural characteristics of emotions increase the ability to cope with threats and opportunities in our environment. Understanding adaptive significance of emotions is also important.
Aroused by achieving evolutionary goals such as reproductive success, being admired, loved, making love, having children, watching them succeed. – Signal of Fitness.
Signals of Pain – that something is unfit (loss of status, loss of resources, social rejection, loss of loved one, death of child) and needs to be worked upon to recreate the “balance”.
To connect with our intimates; when we empathise with others pain, we connect - enables to build a community of mutual interest.
Wrinkled face, narrowed eyes, guttural sounds
It acts as an avoidant tool towards situations or things that may cause uneasiness or sickness.
E.g.: We would obviously not intend our efforts to eat something which tastes disgusting and makes us sick.
Activates fight/flight against threats – signal for body to produce energy for survival.
Anger signals that a defection or potential defection has been detected and will not be tolerated. Its most basic function is to protect against exploitation. Anger helps us in deter attack and exploitation to preserve healthy relationships.
But we are intellectually evolved humans, so THAT’S NOT ALL!!!!!
The evolutionary perspective does not help us explain the complexities of emotional experiences (We can feel multiple feelings at one time). But it surely provides us with logical understanding of how we can benefit from accepting and acknowledging our emotional states rather than neglecting themwhich most of us has been taught in our parental conditioning and we have adapted to this learning unconsciously.
Interesting fact is that emotions act out as “signals” and “messengers”of what requires our attention. Now coming back to why emotions are “meant to be talked” about is because talking about them helps us explore how scared, angry, sad, frustrated, guilty, etc we must have felt. Feeling “listened to” actually changes our physiology. Being able to articulate a complex feeling and having our feelings recognised, lights up our limbic brain and creates an “aha moment”. In contrast, keeping ourselves silent, confused and staying uncomprehend kills our spirit.
In simple words “emotional competency” means how good we our in understanding and making sense of our emotions as well as of others around us. It also refers to the basic skill of how constructively or destructively we manage our emotional reactions.
How to develop Emotional Competency
The only way to develop or improve emotional competency is to start bringing the pattern of your emotional reactions and thoughts into your awareness and reflect on them.
Some tools to practise healthy emotional regulation are:
1. PAUSE - BREATHWORK
In the moments when we are triggered or in peak of a negative emotional experience, take 3-5 very slow deep belly breaths. (Keep doing this if you need to. Make sure the duration of exhale is twice the duration of inhale). This will help to switch from our thinking brain to present moment in our body and active our parasympathetic system. This activation will give our brain a signal “everything is okay”, even if it’s not. The idea is to first let ourselves “feel our feelings”, process it and take proper time to calm down and deal with “not okay” part later. It will give you time to divert your attention on coming back to your body and see how the emotional experience is making you feel inside. Ask yourself -- “Is there any muscle tightness or aches or shivering?” “How am I feeling in my stomach?” Keep breathing and try to maintain focus on those sensations.
This is a helpful method to work in states of frustration, rage, irritation, restlessness, anxiousness. Apart from that, practise breathwork in daily routine. Intentionally activating your parasympathetic system in the moments of relaxation just strengthens its resilience. Basically, consciously practising breathwork for our nervous system is like lifting weights for our muscles. The more your brain receives soothing signals, the more it strengthens.
If you are not feeling okay and not comfortable in sharing what’s bothering you with other person, writing is the way to your rescue. Just pick a pen and paper and start writing freely. Paper won’t judge you or pass a comment on you. The piece of paper is here to accept you. Keep jotting down your thoughts and feelings. Don’t stop till everything is out. Putting how you are feeling into words help us connect with the ‘self-observing’ and ‘narrative’ parts of your brain. Later, when you have calmed yourself down, go back and read it out loud on what you wrote. Take this activity as a learning experience. Now think of the same event/thing that poked you and see the difference in your state of being and thoughts. This will help you in becoming aware of the “emotional hijack” part of yourself and with practise will help you regulate your emotions better.
3. PSYCHO EDUCATE ONESELF
It’s absolutely okay to feel all the extreme negative emotions and have the negative thoughts. But with that we also need to learn that those are “just thoughts” separate from “who we are” and how can they take toll on our health. It’s helpful to learn about how our thoughts and feelings act as a bridge in mind-body connection. Also, identification that whether a negative emotional experience is “healthy” or “unhealthy”.
Negative emotions impact body’s digestive system in short run and immune system in long run, only when they are unhealthy in nature. We are bought with the conditioned learning that some feelings are “bad” and those usually relate to sadness or anger. But we need all our feelings because they bring the message “when we are not feeling safe”, “when are we misunderstood, wronged or hurt”. The work here is to acknowledge the negative feeling and regulate it rather than let it stay for such a time that it converts into unhealthy.
Healthy Negative Emotion
§ Productive Anger
§ Relationship preserving jealousy
§ Productive, motivating envy
Unhealthy Negative Emotion
§ Unproductive Anger
§ Relationship interfering jealousy
§ Unproductive, self-disturbing envy
4. LEARN EMOTIONAL VOCABULARY
Use this chart for a quick “2-minute check in” with yourself. Before addressing emotions, it is important to recognise what all exactly we are feeling and verbalise them for better understanding.
5. BODY WORK – MOVEMENT
Adding even minimum of 10minute movement activity in daily routine – be it, going for a walk, closing your bedroom door and freely jumping/dancing/shaking to your favourite beats, basic stretching exercises, yoga, exercise can help you break the chain of the negative thoughts or pervasive low mood. The more we stimulate our body (kinaesthetic or sensory) to experience the present moment, the more our brain receives the message to induce endorphins – which are also referred to ‘happy hormones and natural pain killers’. It’s not just our mind, we need to literally shake and convey our nervous system that “everything is okay”. This is why “think positive, be positive” does not work in cheering ourselves up! We can deceive our minds, but not our bodies. Our bodies remember and store how we feel.
6. A NUTRITIOUS DIET
Simple and consistent changes brought in eating style can literally generate a difference in how we experience and manage emotions. This is because our GUT is also known as our ‘second brain’ Most of us are unaware of the fact that 99% of body’s serotonin (implicated majorly in regulation of mood and sleep) is produced in gut. The gut microbiome includes bacteria which is critical in maintenance of human health. The Good bacteria in gut helps to absorb nutrients from our food and also protect from harmful foreign bacteria and strengthens our immune system. These tiny good bacteria help in breaking down food travelling through our intestines, hence producing metabolite which influence all of our cells, including those of our nervous system. A healthy microbiome is central for normal cognitive and emotional processing. If we fuel ourselves with home cooked, healthy nutritious and fibrous food, it further produces these good bacteria in the process of digestion and result in production of serotonin to keep our mood regulated. However, if we keep feeding ourselves with unhealthy food or take long gaps in b/w our meals, it in return reduces the production of good bacteria and increases the production of bad bacteria that further weakens our immune system. Guess! The ancient wisdom of “Satvik Bhojan” makes a lot of sense after all. This is another reason why several dieting programmes end up making you feel more agitated and sadder and does not give long lasting results. A bloated and acidic free healthy poop has the power to uplift our mood.
One of the very essential nutrients is VitaminB12. Deficiency of vitaminB12 can lead to “feeling low” sometimes.
7. TALK TO A FRIEND
As it is said that humans are social beings and cannot survive in isolation. If you have a friend or share a non-judgmental bond with anyone, contact them and ask for help. Talk to someone whom you trust, who listens intently and non-judgementally. That’s all it takes to release your negative thought and emotions. The core human need of “being heard and understood” has to be somewhat fulfilled to develop a long term healthy self-regulation system.
8. CONSULT A THERAPIST/COUNSELLOR
If you unable to seek a safe space with a family member or a friend, don’t hesitate or shy from consulting a mental health professional. It’s completely okay, fair and normal to feel awkward, resistant, nervous, ashamed (due to societal norms), uneasy between having the idea of going to therapy and till the time of your session (sometimes even during the session, but it’s okay). Always remember, we are not programmed to feel something intentionally or on-demand. So, whatever we are feeling is natural and completely okay.
Copyright © 2021 Pahoti Llp- All Rights Reserved.
Powered by Gratitude