#Askingforafriend: What do I do about my emotions?
By Ellie Evans
GCU Office of Student Care
First, let’s get on the same page about what emotions are and what purpose they serve.
Think of emotion like energy in motion. It’s been suggested that all variants of emotion can be categorized by one of the following: joy, passion, fear, pain, anger, guilt, shame and love. Each of these emotions carry with them an energy that can be felt in the body and exposed outwardly, such as in one’s body language or facial expression.
The physics majors out there can attest to the reality that energy sets things in motion. So when my emotion is felt, that energy motivates movement – whether it is to cry, speak up, act out, hold back, sit still, think or savor.
What did your body would feel motivated to do that last time you felt guilty? What about the last time you felt passionate?
Practices that intentionally connect us with our body, such as mindfulness or yoga, are helpful in identifying underlying emotions. This self-awareness is in fact one crucial piece of emotional intelligence – a key skill for personal and professional success.
But what happens when you identify a bad emotion? It’s common to unconsciously categorize emotions as “good” or “bad.” To unpack this, let’s consider that while emotions serve as a motivator, they also serve as an informant about our inner experience – this information is useful not just to ourselves but to those around us.
For example, imagine you walk into a classroom at 7 a.m. on exam day and notice a classmate with a scowl on their face – what emotion might they be experiencing? What does that emotion tell you about how to interact with that individual?
Imagine that you felt a tinge anxious as a result of seeing their scowl. That anxiety might inform you that your situation requires a higher level of alertness so as not to rouse the beast who appears to have gone without coffee this morning.
This information might impact where you choose to sit or how you speak to that individual. The energy and information of anxiety signals your need to maintain safety, prompting you to take measures to meet that need.
To further explore emotion as neutral information, consider an engineer testing a jet engine who determines that, at a certain altitude, the jet fails. That information is not “bad” — it’s actually quite useful and lifesaving!
Just as information is not “good” or “bad,” emotions are neither “good” or “bad.” Accepting emotions as energy moving through the body providing valuable information allows us to observe from a place of curiosity as we inwardly ask, “What do I need?”
We then can identify available resources to meet that need. When resources come up short, it’s appropriate to reach out and ask for help. As the late Bill Withers sang, “You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand – we all need somebody to lean on.”