Wow-opening a discussion about what emotions are is like taking the lid off Pandora’s box….such a huge far ranging and complex topic, but here is how we got on:
So, we could name some emotions like anger, frustration, passion, joy, upset, low, jealousy, sorrow, guilt and fear and we got into a conversation about which emotions or in which context it is acceptable to express emotion in our society and culture and which ones are not. For example, at a football match it is very acceptable for men to display passion, excitement, disappointment, cry and hug strangers, whereas these same men would be unlikely to do so at the office. “It’s like something changes when going through that turnstile”. It is possibly more acceptable in our society for women to discuss their difficult emotions that it is for men, though this does slowly seem to be changing as with current disclosures by men of abuse they experienced in football clubs, society is opening up to men talking about things as we start to move on from the stiff upper lip generation of the war. Maybe that approach was fitting for an entire society to heal from its losses and scars but it feels different now and in different times and with different issues perhaps it is more helpful to speak.
We thought about what are emotions for? What is their purpose? Well, our emotions have an impact on our physical wellbeing, we talked about how bitterness can literally make you feel ill as it maybe does have some kind of toxin to our bodies, and we know it is documented that laughter is good for our health, and strengthens the bones. Holding anger and stress will cause tension and tiredness and unreleased grief and unforgiveness can feed into being unwell with depression.
Emotions also indicate something to us, letting us know that something is good like peace, love and joy, or that something needs attended such as compassion or guilt while some emotions alert us that something is wrong or unjust like anger or fear.
In considering how we respond to difficult emotions people talked about how it was an active choice to not become bitter or self-pitying or remain in a victim place where we may have been in a situation that caused us to feel hurt and powerless. Instead we can choose to be grateful. Practical ways that people responded to emotions were to talk it out or walk it out. Some explained that by not allowing expression of emotion this leads to feeling numb, where emotions cease to be felt at all.
So, how much should emotion guide our behaviour? Well we decided that it is probably best to think it out, and assess before responding immediately to any emotion, we agreed with the wisdom of the following quote:
“The best speech you make in anger, is the best speech you will probably regret”. Ed Garcia
People spoke about doing something different in order to have another focus to dissipate strong negative emotions, and again people spoke about choosing gratitude over bitterness.
Overall coping strategies to cope with strong emotions and stress which group members used were mindfulness and taking the power to make good choices about which emotions to run with or not and responding after measured consideration.
“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which ones to surf.” Jonaten Martensson