A dear friend commented how people from certain cultures don’t express emotions. He was proud about how his countrymen were free to scream and yell at each other, even in public. “We know how to express emotions. It’s better to pick up a fight than to hold back!!” He claimed, then concluded: “To express or not to express, that’s the question.” We both laughed.
I believe that emotional expression is much more complex than that. Emotion is one of the most misunderstood human dimensions. While emotions and dramas make great movies and operas, left unattended, they can drain a lot of life energy.
Many people are unaware of where emotions come from and how to process them. Often, we react emotionally to what happened outside and mistakenly believe that how we feel is caused by outside situations or other people’s actions. That is a misunderstanding.
Our emotion is activated by our own thoughts – our interpretation of what happened to us, instead of what actually happened to us. The only three people who can control our thoughts are – I, me and myself. Nobody outside can make us feel unappreciated, stressed, judged or angry except for the thoughts in our mind (see Stress, Not Caused by Circumstance).
Does this mean other people can get away from mistreating us? Not at all. What goes around always comes around, without exception. But we leave that discussion for another time. When in conflict, many people focus on how to change others or how to hold others responsible. By pointing fingers and blaming others for how we feel, we are playing victims and voluntarily giving away our power. We are literally saying to others: “You can control my emotions as if choosing TV channels with a remote control. Push the buttons of your choice, and I will feel happy, sad, angry, or frustrated accordingly”.
The reality is, outside situation or people can only trigger but never cause us to feel a specific way. Negative emotion is like an open wound. When someone presses it, it hurts. The person who presses it triggers the pain but does not create the wound. He merely points out where the wound is located. The negative emotions we express are already inside of us. An angry person expresses anger because there is unreleased anger within. An alcoholic father who beats his children illustrates this point clearly. It is better to heal the wound than to shoot the messenger.
In Buddhism and other western philosophies, there is a quality called equanimity. It refers to the state of a disciplined and pure mind versus a noisy and intoxicated mind. It is a state that can be cultivated by practicing meditation or mindfulness. When we reach that state, we enjoy mind power and ultimate emotional freedom.
However, most of us mortal beings are not there yet. We are frequently troubled by an untrained mind and trapped emotions due to past traumas experienced by ourselves and by our ancestors (Yes, none of us lives in isolation and all of us are connected – past, present, future and all of humanity – more on that another time).
When holding back negative unprocessed emotions, there are two detrimental consequences. First, holding back emotions is like pressing a beach ball into the water. It takes tremendous energy. A workplace without caring for employees’ emotional well-being is like asking an Olympic swimmer to compete for a gold medal while holding a beach ball under the water. Imagine the wasted productivity.
Second, unprocessed emotions, like chemical toxins, are trapped in our bodies. Accumulated over time, they trigger chronicle diseases. Each organ is related to a certain type of emotions. For example, fear causes kidney failure. Sadness can cause lung cancer. Anger overloads the liver, and worrying leads to stomach diseases. Overall, the majority of our physical ailments can be traced to an emotional cause. It is no secret that happy and serene people enjoy better health.
How do we release negative emotions? Pick up a fight or scream in public? I really hope not. Even a 2-year-old child knows to release himself in private and designated places. Why should adults throw tantrums in front of innocent people, including their children, spouses, and colleagues unapologetically? But some cultures accept such behavior, unfortunately.
It is time to raise standards. And there are ways to manage our mind and heal the emotional wound. In a nutshell, meditation, hypnotherapy and energy healing, such as Emotional Freedom Tapping are a few of the thousands of methods available.
For now, I hope to emphasize three points. First, it is time that organizations, and society at large, recognize the critical role that emotion plays in our lives and how it affects our health and productivity. Neglect it at our own peril. Second, with the right guidance, we can learn to manage our own mind and emotions. Third, many of the healing methods are free and miraculous in their effectiveness. Some of them have been available for thousands of years.
Get educated, take charge and claim the power.