Emotions are an intrinsic part of our intelligence. Without them, we would be strange creatures, indeed! Emotions are a set of sign posts we all carry inside us. They evolved over millions of years and they make us human. If our needs are not being met, it is our emotions that flag this up. So, when we experience feelings of rejection and loneliness, our emotions are telling us that something is amiss. Our emotions give us information about how we are feeling. If emotional connections are not working, even simple decisions are difficult to make. You have to be able to know how you will feel if you make choices. Emotions help you to do that.
When someone makes us feel unhappy or uncomfortable, our emotions tell us so. If we are healthy emotionally, we will be able to set boundaries and express ourselves in a manner that will help us to protect ourselves. Emotions are also vital to the way we communicate. Our expressions illustrate our emotions moment by moment. Facial expressions communicate to others how we feel inside, so if we look sad or distressed, others can see we need help. If we can also express those feelings verbally, we are more likely to find the help we need. Being in touch with our own emotions can also help us respond to the needs of others.
So how do you know what you are feeling? When you feel happy, you know it! Your emotions tell you that you are happy. So the better you understand your emotions, the easier it will be for you to understand yourself and to know what it is that makes you happy. Your emotions will tell you. In a world that is full of conflict caused by religion or political ideology,what can unite us? Empathy, compassion, forgiveness and cooperation can. Our religious and political beliefs divide us, but maybe it is our emotions that can bring us together?
When the riots happened here in the UK last August, much was made of the fact that the young people who were rioting came from dysfunctional families. But it is unlikely that those kids were going hungry. They had homes and were wearing clothes. They weren’t running naked and hungry through the streets, stealing televisions and trainers. You can give children all the material stuff they say they want, but if their emotional needs are not being met, then they will never be content.
Humans all have emotional needs. We all need to feel excepted and respected. But the difference in how we express those needs, shows that we are not all the same. Some of us need more freedom than others. Some of us need more security than others. But the base line is the same. We all need to have our emotional needs understood and validated by others. If this delicate balance is not understood as kids are growing up, they may feel frustrated and behave badly. Our schools tend to focus on getting children through exams. They are on a conveyor belt and individualism is not encouraged. Kids reaching their teens can become withdrawn and cut themselves off if their unique personalities are not encouraged and their needs met. If they are bored at school and live in a home where parents are also out of touch with them emotionally through neglect or abuse – physical or emotional, then the outcome may be what we saw last August in London.
A lack of understanding of the emotional life we all hold inside ourselves leads to much unhappiness. If emotions are repressed from an early age, we can find showing empathy to others almost impossible. The stiff upper lip does nobody any favours. That’s not to say that spewing out your emotions whenever you feel like it, is a good idea. There has to be some measure of control and that balance can only come from insight and probably from parents who expressed and validated their own feelings and emotions appropriately. But we are not able to choose our parents, so we have to make the best of it. That is why our education system has to wise up and become much more aware of how emotions work and how crucial they are to education and ultimately, to a happy and fulfilled life.