Emotions are Messengers

Emotions are Messengers


I often hear people say things like, ‘I shouldn’t have felt this way’ [insert sad/angry/other emotion]. It implies that it is wrong to have some feelings, and that you should always feel positive. Thinking this way is going to cause problems- because emotions are important and valid. Emotions give us information about what is happening in our environment, and they cause changes in our body and behaviour so that we can effectively respond to what is happening.

For example- if someone takes advantage of you at work, then naturally you will feel angry. Anger is designed to drive you to correct wrongs and seek justice- so you may feel strong urges to do something like confront your co-worker or complain to your boss. These action urges are designed to correct the wrong and prevent it from happening again.

But… If you tell yourself, ‘It is not that big a deal, I shouldn’t get angry, getting angry with other people is wrong’, then what happens? You will not address the issue, making it more likely the same thing could happen again. You will also experience a negative reaction to your anger, such as feeling shame or guilt that you were angry in the first place. Or you might feel frustrated with yourself that you got angry when you don’t want to! This secondary emotion occurs in response to the first, primary emotion, and increases your turmoil and emotional distress.

Primary emotions are important- they help us, they give us essential information about things we may not be fully conscious of (think of gut feelings), and they tell us what to do. They are valid, and worth acknowledging. Not acknowledging these emotions causes more emotional suffering. Treat your emotions are messengers: listen to them, notice your action urges, and then decide what to do with this information.

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