Emotions… or E-motions… Energy for action!

What are our basic emotions? 

The basic emotions are like the primary colours of the emotions. 

According to experts, there are 8 basic emotions.

  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Disgust
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Surprise
  • Joy
  • Trust

Then come the more complex emotions, such as jealousy, which can be a mix of fear, shame, and anger. Or at the other end of the spectrum is love, which can be a mix of joy and trust.

The multiple combinations create a very colourful palette, with each one of us having our own very unique version.

What strikes me in this categorisation is that we tend to start with more negative emotions (lower energy vibrations) than positive emotions (higher energy vibrations)…  Interesting, no? 

Our emotions are messengers… 

An emotion is an energy flowing in our body to deliver us a message. Our brain has processed an information (external stimulus) and the result is an emotion.

  •  What should we understand from our emotions?
  •  What is the emotion triggering in us?
  •  And what do we do with that emotion?

First of all, we should welcome and accept our emotion, not ignore it. Then try to name our emotion. Which one is it? It is not always easy to define… Finally understand its message.

  • Is my anger due to an unmet need or an unfulfilled value?
  • Does my joy tell me which way to go?
  • Does my fear invite me to surpass myself?
  • Does my sadness tell me to let go?

Asking these questions allows us to understand what is going on within ourselves. We can then decide what behaviour we want to adopt.

Unfortunately, very often, our reaction to our emotion is immediate, spontaneous, thoughtless, … 

We don’t take the space or the time between our emotion and our reaction.

How can we better manager our emotions?

As already mentioned, our emotions are messengers. 

The way we react to them is up to us.  There is a space between our emotion and our response.

Sometimes the emotion is so strong that the reaction is immediate. It is a question of survival, the amygdala takes over and our neocortex is not responsive anymore as our oxygen and energy are used to offer a fast survival response (fight, fly, freeze, flock). 

Example: Your kid is crossing the street without noticing a car coming, you are extremely scared, you don’t think, you grab him. There is no analysis, you act.

You will only be able to analyse the situation when the danger has passed, when your neocortex is connected again.

Usually, we have an emotion and we are capable to take a moment (and use our neocortex) before reacting.

Not taking that moment can lead us to a response we might regret afterwards…

Example: Your colleague is not delivering a paper as agreed, you are very upset. You could lash out your anger or you could take a moment, breathe and think about the best way to deal with it.

So, how can we better manage our emotions?

First thing first: PAUSE. This pause is essential!

How to use this pause? 

A pause helps us not to react immediately to our emotions.

  • To understand the reason for this emotion
  • To analyse if this emotion only concerns us or involves other people
  • To judge if a reaction to this emotion is important 

If the emotion only concerns yourself and the reaction belongs to you and has nothing to do with others, then the focus should be on what YOU can do to regulate this emotion.

Example: I was about to shout at my children. Why? I don’t really know, they didn’t do anything special apart from being kids. I’m pissed off because of my day. I need to exercise to reduce my stress level.

If this is an infringement on your needs or values, the first step would be to think and ask yourself if you have control and whether or not it is important.

Example: During confinement my need to have moments alone is no longer being respected … This strongly impacts me. This does not solely depend on me and I can take actions communicating my need and the importance of it to my family.

In conclusion

   Whatever the emotion, don’t let your reaction take over.  Take a step back to pause and reflect and only after that, decide what is the best way to manage your emotion;
  • accept the emotion because it is a normal reaction (for example, being sad when faced with a difficult event)
  • take action (for example, communicate your needs so that you no longer feel upset)
  • reset (for example, do some exercise to relieve the stress of the day)
  • or even change your emotion (for example, recognize that you started the day on the wrong foot and switch to a happier mood)