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Emotions are Normal…and Needed




Emotions are “a complex series of neurological, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and hormonal changes to the body. These changes prepare us to take action” (1). Personally, I read that quote over several times to let it sink in for myself. There are dozens of possible definitions of emotions and this is one that attempts to convey just how interconnected our feelings are with everything else about us. Emotions serve to notify us that something is happening so that we can respond. When we do not respond to what our emotions are signaling to us we can get stuck in unhelpful behavior loops.

In the first meeting with a new client I invite them to tell me what has brought them to counseling and what they hope to get out of mental health treatment. Inevitably I hear variations of “I want to be happy” or “I don’t want to feel so bad all the time.” Some people either think or hope that mental health treatment is about avoiding unpleasant sensations. Mental health counseling is about finding ways to acknowledge the signals your emotions are giving you and prepare for actions that help you move in the direction that matters most to you.

Behaviors that attempt to control, obey, or avoid our emotions often lead us far away from the person we want to become. We can stumble and fall into a pattern that can be difficult to escape from unless we begin to take notice. Emotions let you know that something has happened or is happening. Learning new, effective strategies for responding to emotions can help us stay out of dark places and pull us back into the light when we inevitably slip. When we attempt to escape from our feelings or morph them into something more desirable we may lose sight of where we are trying to go.

Emotions are signals that let you know you are alive and are responding to the world around you. Emotions let us know what we care about and help us prepare to act. Once we learn how to respond to them effectively they can help guide us to take actions that make our lives better.



Reference:

(1) Harris, R. (2009). ACT Made Simple: An Easy-To-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment therapy.


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