What are emotions? Are emotions different from feelings? No, they are one and the same. Emotions are not consciously controlled and arise from the limbic system.The limbic system is thought to be an early, primitive part of the brain’s development.This primitive nature is why our emotions tend to be quite straightforward: anger, happiness, sadness, etc. These emotions evolved for our survival, reacting instantly to stimuli could mean the difference between life or death.

Our emotions are also closely linked to memory and experience. If you had a strong reaction to an event, place, or any number of stimuli, it is likely you will react just as strongly the next time you have a similar experience. Our emotions are also closely tied to our values. There is a plethora of topics that create an emotional response, from baseball stats to politics! If you have a strong reaction to a talking point, for example, it is possible that one of your values has been challenged. I suspect that each of us can think of a time when our emotions got the better of us during a conversation!

It is important to remember that we cannot turn our emotions on and off, like a faucet; they will come and go whether we like it or not. Knowing this, we can stop beating ourselves up for feeling a particular way. Emotions are part of the human experience. The human brain is wired to categorize things as positive and negative; our emotions are no different.The goal is to fully feel the range of human emotions without attaching positive and negative labels to them.

While our goal is to allow ourselves to fully experience the range of human emotions, without unconsciously attaching a label (this takes practice!) to them, it is vitally important to keep in mind: You are NOT your emotions. You are a complex person with values and commitments who has emotions that are triggered on a regular basis. It can be useful to remind ourselves that we have emotions but are not them, especially when feeling triggered. Otherwise, we may be hijacked regularly by our emotions!

In several future posts, we will look at ways to manage our emotions. We will explore new ways of thinking and develop new practices to be mindful of our emotional states and reactions. Until next time, have a great day!

Lori Brandt