Most phobias in the world tend to focus on things that can actually kill you like spiders, snakes, heights or dogs. But my self preservative nature doesn’t focus on possible death. My biggest fear is feeling emotions. That’s right. Emotions scare the crap out of me.
The popular idiom, “fear nothing but fear itself” seems like an ideal situation but from experience, it sucks.
Don’t listen, guys.
It becomes a catch 22 of avoiding feelings because I’m stacking them and putting myself into a place where a meltdown becomes inevitable. I become a hoarder carrying tons of extra weight on my shoulders and it’s difficult to let go.
But even though I resist expressing my emotions because of a fear, you may have a different reason. Whether you’re a sensor, intuitive, an introvert or an extrovert, if you have a thinking process settled into the first or second slot of your cognitive function stack, I’m talking to you.
So besides fearing the sensation of emoting, here are some other reasons a thinker may avoid their feelings:
- For Thinkers, some feelings are not intrinsically rewarding.
- They aren’t interesting to dissect for most thinkers.
- They seem to waste time and distract from what’s important.
- It consumes energy to address them.
- It may be frustrating or terrifying to admit incompetence with matters of the heart.
- Feelings may trigger a sense of losing control since they can’t be measured, or rationalized.
- Our world rewards Thinkers for being calm, collected and rational, so acknowledging feelings means entering a space that’s less celebrated.
- They make decisions more complicated.
- They tell us to make convictions which threaten freedom.
- They plant uncertainty that we may not be right or that we don’t actually have control over everything.
- They tell us to open up and get hurt when we refuse to get vulnerable.
So many reasons surface as to why a Thinker wouldn’t want to deal with emotions. So why even bother addressing them since the cons weigh so heavily?
Now if you heard the podcast on Emotional Stacking vs Emotional Overindulgence, you know that the majority of Thinkers tend toward stacking. So for me, since I feel insecure these days for seeing so many possibilities of emotional triggers, it’s my job to purge each and every one of those to prevent accumulation. If I don’t want to end up a dramatic, high-strung mess, I must engage in mindfulness and pursue awareness of my mood almost 24/7. As an INTJ, that knowledge feels daunting and I’m sure other Thinkers will have some other kind of negative response to that kind of message as well.
What’s Wrong With Stacking?
Emotions are like barnacles for Thinker Types. A single one may not feel like much at all. But if you ignore it, more will gather and cement themselves. Soon, you’ll have a mass buildup of barnacles all fused together and weighing your boat down. This hinders motion and slows down forward progression. Yea, you can still get through life but you’re obviously going to overcome more inertia as a persistent obstacle. Regular maintenance provides way less hassle and time than trying to scrape a hull full of barnacles off – especially if they had permission to collect and solidify over several decades.
Boating analogy aside, there’s another way that emotions can sabotage your life. If you hold your emotions for too long (even the ‘good’ ones), they can have a shielding effect on you as an attempt to block new ones from coming in. You may withhold the negative emotions for a time but you’ll also be deterring joy, forgiveness, relief, excitement, and other emotions that people tend to seek out as indicators of a healthy life.
Why Do Emotions Matter?
To answer this question, you need to understand their function. They don’t just exist in a vacuum. I mean, that’s why your brain wiring allows for them. They’re not just little minions attempting to disrupt your life at every turn. Here are a few reasons why emotions matter.
Reason 1: Emotions Alert Us
Usually we think of our feelings in the dichotomy of good or bad. However, I think it’s detrimental to consider them either. Rather, if you acknowledge your feelings when someone disrespected you or when someone gave you what you needed, you can probably imagine what it really means when we consider emotions ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In reality, emotions alert us when a boundary was crossed, or a need unmet. The opposite is also the same. We’re notified when a need was met and a boundary honored as well. Through this lens, all emotions are useful and a necessary part of our lives.
Think of them like a mentor. A really good one. Good mentors trigger you to think for yourself and find your own solution. All they do is point out a discrepancy. “Is this really the right program for you?” That plants an idea for you to chew on and then you can act on the information. It’s the same with your emotions. It’s their way of saying “Are you sure you wanna get into this situation?” and the necessary action following that is to ponder what probably triggered that emotion and what action it’s probably encouraging you to take.
Reason 2: Emotions Inspire Action
If you’re human, you are chasing an emotional experience in your life. Whether that’s happiness, adventure, anticipation, satisfaction, victory or what have you, there’s something sentimental that you’re aiming for.
So in addition to the previous point, think about what kinds of emotions might inspire certain actions. Let’s say you were feeling fear because your need for safety wasn’t being met. What could you do to make sure you were feeling safe? Would you voice your concerns? Demand the other person respect your boundaries? Establish a safety net through friends and family? Reach out to those who can protect you?
How about if you were feeling gratitude in a new relationship because your need for connection has been met. What would you do? Would that inspire you to show love by increasing gift giving? Would you call that person more? Would you verbally express that gratitude more than you have been? Would you feel free to say “I love you,” when you were holding back before?
This is how emotions inspire action.
Reason 3: Emotions Exist Physically
That means that you feel them in your body, hence the term “feelings” which may occur as tense shoulders, a heavy heart, or butterflies in your gut. This was one of my most recent, yet profound realizations I’ve learned. If you don’t allow your heart to express itself at a full level 10, and you stifle it down to a 3 or 4, your cells will store the rest of that wounding for you which means that over time, physical damage will result as the trauma builds. On the flip side, the feelings release much faster if you surrender to them.
I want to emphasize that ‘surrender’ doesn’t mean ‘losing control’ because remember that stifling them down raises the potential for egregious outbursts. That outburst may hit tomorrow or ten years from now, but you’re basically delaying a soda can explosion, thinking that you’re controlling the pressure within it by squeezing the can tighter.
Reason 4: Emotions Encourage Human Connection
When you shield yourself from your feelings, it’s hard to fully connect with people. When I say connect, I don’t mean networking. There are tons of Extraverted Thinker types with an entire tribe and audience that adores them to pieces. They are the types of people who can fill a room, entertain it, lead it, yet feel completely alone despite their community building skills. And if you’re an Introverted Thinker, connection might feel damn near impossible at times.
The connection piece stems from shared interests and values. You live your life to the fullest when you embrace emotions and tend to open yourself up to new sentimental experiences. That means more people who you actually enjoy being around, more pleasurable interactions, greater intimacy and more depth in your social interactions. Human connection means opportunity, work satisfaction, more avenues for accomplishment, financial security and an abundance in resources.
Let me break this down just a bit further. Humans don’t only provide love and affection. They also offer advice, time, energy, money, food and other valuable resources to the people they care about. However, emotions are part of a value exchange. Reciprocity is important. That’s why if you don’t have a friend or family member to talk to when you’re having problems, you need to pay a therapist to listen to you. For the listener that has no social connection to you, the value doesn’t lie in potentially being heard in the future so you need to exchange money to represent that connection. In addition, when relationships last for long periods of time, they serve as a huge support system for various areas of your life.
Reason 5: Emotions Contain Your Deepest Values
Some decisions in our lives seem reasonable. Many paths in life are completely viable ones. As a Thinker, you might choose the one that is most financially beneficial or holds the most potential for future opportunities. But which path is in tune with what’s right for you? What path honors who you are? The answer to these questions lies in your values because they tend to shape your identity.
They also help motivate us. Whenever you are out touch with your values, you basically hand them over to an outside source. In other words, someone else controls your life’s direction. It’s easy to surrender to a lifestyle that simply ‘makes sense’ yet doesn’t fulfill you completely because getting in touch with your character means getting in touch with your emotions which can be hard work. But you also lose your life purpose and your grounding as a consequence. Stop outsourcing your standards and connect with what’s important to you.
Reason 6: Emotions Drive Self Development
A major reason you become aware of an area that needs improvement in your life is because you feel a sense of wrongness. Your ego may take a hit after a certain scenario or an old trigger may show up. It gives you an opportunity to attend to them. When you start getting into processing your emotions, remember that the ultimate goal is about bettering your life and becoming a more well-rounded person. Let people see the truth about who you are genuinely and if icky stuff comes up, bringing those things into your awareness gives you an opportunity to work on them. Going through this process helps solidify your integrity.
Get In Touch With Your Emotions
Now I’m gonna be honest here. Once you start seeking out connections, you’re gonna feel a bunch of shit. Sadness, anger, frustration, uncertainty, sadness, disappointment, fear, anxiety, stress, worry, hesitation, and a whole bunch of other feelings. You’ll wonder why you ever tried to feel more things deeply, why you ever started being more authentic or being true to you, and why oh why you ever thought it was a good idea to actually say what you meant in a straightforward way.
Take one of the reasons why emotions matter (whichever one is most relevant to your current situation) and use it as a mantra during turbulent times. Remember your end goal and persevere.
Read & Learn: Check out these books and TED Talks to help build your EQ.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B Rosenberg – This book provides tools for getting in touch with your needs and meeting them as well as the needs of others. It also details the role emotions play in your life.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman – another incredibly helpful book that extrapolates on how to build your EQ and to get in touch with your feelings.
8 Amazing TED Talks that help explain the importance of building EQ.
Talk It Out: Whether you use Harmony (Fe) or Authenticity( Fi) talking things out can greatly benefit you.
For Harmony users – It’s important to have connection during the process of purging your emotions because the conversation becomes a sounding board. Give yourself permission to express what you’re feeling even if you’re unsure about exactly what it might be. The shared experience of talking it out will help you. If you’re uncomfortable with making the atmosphere incredibly serious, try building rapport through laughter first. Then clarity will become much easier to achieve.
‘In touch with your feelings’ looks like cheerfulness in a healthy Harmony user.
For Authenticity users – It’s important to talk things out in order to gain guidance or validation. Feelings can be confusing and you may worry that you’re being irrational or unreasonable and while self-validation can and is effective, sometimes you just need to hear, “It’s totally ok to have this feeling. I’ve had this feeling, too.” Or, “I totally understand why you would be feeling this way. I’d be feeling the same in your situation.” Then it’s easier to get into problem-solving mode so that your authenticity process no longer stalls movement.
‘In touch with feelings’ looks like tranquility and calmness in a healthy Authenticity user.
Meditate: Getting still helps center you. It doesn’t have to mean crossing your legs and going ‘om’ for two hours. The important thing about meditation is physical and mental awareness. Focus in on where feelings may exist in your body. Try to locate and identify them. Pay attention to the thoughts that flow by. Do they help you determine what emotions you might be having at the moment and what they might mean?
You can try guided meditations to help you. Plenty of them reside on the internet and a quick search will get you many results.
I have no idea whether I have convinced you about the significance of emotions. I know it took me a freakishly long while to get with the program. Even now I still resist. But I hope that in the long run, this article helped add value to your life and inspired you into action.
If you’re a Thinker who realizes the importance of emotions, how did you get to that place? What lessons led you to that conclusion? And if you’re a Thinker that feels ready to start building your EQ, how will you go about it? Don’t be afraid to share your experiences in the comments.
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