Who taught us about our emotions when we were young? If you were lucky, you would have a mom, dad, sibling, relative, or mentor who could speak to you about what an emotion is, how it affects your thoughts and actions and how you could control them. For most of us, we were left to figure all of this out.
So what exactly is an emotion? Collins Dictionary defines an emotion as a feeling such as happiness, love, fear, anger, or hatred, which can be caused by the situation that you are in or the people you are with. I would suggest that a raw emotion can simply be defined as energy in motion (the Latin derivative for the word emotion, ‘emotere’, literally means energy in motion). Your body is constantly receiving streams of data from both internal sources and external sources and sending this data to your brain. This raw energy travels in the form of electrical signals, pressure waves, and chemical waves. There is an energetic signature that each emotion creates. For example, the energetic signature for anxiety is a fast heart rate, dry mouth, sweaty palms, shaking, and a churning gut.
An emotion does not define who we are. Emotions define what we are feeling at any given moment in time. Emotions are like waves that pass through our body. When an emotion like anger arises we need to remember that we are not an angry person. We are just experiencing anger from a certain signal, event or trigger. An emotion is different from a feeling. Feelings are the awareness of where the energy is in our body. Feelings are your ability to put the energetic signatures into words. We can't stop an emotion from arising, but through the practice of mindfulness, we can change how that feeling makes us think. How we feel and think greatly influence each other. How we feel determines how we think and how we think determines what we do.
This brings up the subject of self talk. When our emotions arise and we are put under stress, what are we saying to ourselves? Are we beating ourselves up with negative talk, or are we kind to ourselves? A helpful practice is to have a mantra that we say to ourselves when we feel challenged by negative emotions, stressors, or triggers. Mantras can be as simple as "I got this", "I can do this", or "Easy day". Your self talk should be motivational and inspirational to you, allowing you to feel motivated and focused as well as bring to you a feeling of calm. Muhamed Ali's famous mantra was "I am the greatest". This allowed him to believe he could accomplish his goals of being the greatest fighter in the world, even when he may have had doubts and not felt his greatest. Self talk will build self confidence by repeatedly telling yourself that you believe in yourself. We are critical by nature and need to practice self talk that brings out the best in us. We all fail and need to understand that failure is how we learn. It is the self talk after we fail that can allow us to either grow or not. Persistence is the repeated overcoming of failure that leads to either a new skill or achieving one's goal.
So how do we start to control our actions, change the way we think, and change our behavior? We start by practicing mindfulness to understand the signals that our body is sending our brain in the form of emotions. This understanding allows you to recognize when a feeling arises and how it influences your thoughts. You have the ability to train yourself to recognize when an emotion is happening through this practice of meditation. Even though you can not stop an emotion from happening, you can change your behavior by recognizing the feeling and changing your thoughts which result in your behavior. To learn more contact me to attend a training or individual session.