Why emotions matter
Today’s piece addresses the task of feeling emotions and making them as fulfilling and nurturing as possible. Is that a task? It can certainly seem so, through my own experience and also in my practice.
There is a reason for this and it is contingent on our initial primary attachment experience. Our primary attachment experience is usually with our mother. Attachment is a biological imperative, it is a need for affiliation with other human beings that begins in infancy and continues throughout our lifetime. Relationships of attachment are the key context for the development of self, creating patterns of how we relate, not only to others but also to ourselves.
Attachment, in it’s best case scenario, provides us with enough security to be able to meet and absorb difficult emotions as we experience them. In most of our experiences there will be affirmations as well as deficits in the primary attachment relationship. It is our own unique experience that we carry with us. Our experiences form templates, yet they are not concretised into a fixed trajectory for our entire lives.
It is important to ask ourselves how we experience difficult emotions? Are we able to encounter them, allow ourselves to be distressed and know they will pass? Are we afraid of them, do they threaten to overtake and overwhelm? Emotions are our flag raisers, they alert us to what we are experiencing on an instinctual and immediate level.
The reason they are important is that they remain if we do not or cannot process them, they are lodged and can emerge in situations that may not merit such a response. Often the reason we cannot acknowledge them is because, from a very early age we were not given the tools to manage the distress we felt. This is where we turn to our minds to comprehend, discard or mediate for us as our emotions may indicate to our thinking that we need to filter. It is actually being more and more understood that cognitions depend on emotions.
The challenge with this trying to ignore how we feel is that ultimately they remain in a part as yet unaccessed; we may feel like we’re missing out, unfulfilled and we are usually aware of a measure of discord deep within us. This is because we ourselves are not acknowledging the fullness of ourselves.
Emotions are often desired to be suppressed because they are messy and they can propose a disturbance in our daily experience. We may need help to be able to sit with and absorb the feeling, allowing their presence to be felt. To allow them to emerge and wane and know that we survive.