According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary an emotion is:
“A conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body”.
The one key item of this definition is “subjectively”. Emotions are strong and will be linked to your own perspectives and belief system. The way you think about, express, and manage your emotions will have an impact on your performance and your general wellbeing.
Most people think about emotions all wrong. They react to them and are a slave to their emotions and forget their purpose. People try to avoid “bad” emotions, things that feel bad rather than listening to emotions and trying to understand what this emotion is telling them.
Here’s a key thing to remember though. You have emotions but they don’t have to have you. Emotions truly can be used as a tool for you to understand a situation better.
Once you start to become aware of your emotions, express them, and control them, you will also be able to create emotions that support you in all that you do and therefore achieve success quicker. By learning how to become emotionally smarter you will become emotionally intelligent. Here’s a nice link to a great article on emotional intelligence and how it is linked to life satisfaction.
You perhaps already see that in a transition as big as going from corporate to entrepreneurship, emotions will occur, and managing them will support you throughout.
In this article, I will talk about why people avoid emotions, what we mean by emotional expression, and how we can better understand emotions.
Why do we avoid emotions?
We have all done it and some of us still do so don’t feel bad when reading this. Generally, speaking there are a few possible reasons why people tend to suppress their emotions (“positive” or “negative” emotions).
- Emotions are a sign of weakness…supposedly
Emotions are a sign of weakness is one of the most absurd myths out there and unfortunately, one that a lot of people still believe. Showing emotions will require you to be in a vulnerable place and it’s normal that you don’t want to be there because it means taking risks and potentially being hurt. But being vulnerable is actually one of the most courageous things you can do. This is actually backed up by some great research done by Brené Brown.
- You don’t want to get hurt
Not hurt yourself or someone else. People often avoid or suppress emotions to protect their relationships. We all have had those thoughts.“What if they don’t like what I say?”“What if what I say will make it worse?”
The fear of it being worse is leading you to avoid the emotion full stop. Or perhaps you’ve had an experience where you opened up and someone took advantage of it. So understandably you fear trusting people with your feelings.
- You never learned to express them properly
The environment in which you grow up teaches you a lot of things and one of them is how you deal with emotions. If you grew up receiving a message that feelings aren’t important or pointless, you’ll most likely be an expert in hiding them.As a consequence, you might fear your ability to deal with emotions when they come up. You fear that you will be overwhelmed by them so what better way to avoid it than brushing them under the carpet.
As we highlighted above there are various reasons why someone would not express their emotions. So I know you are now thinking Nils, Nils how do I start expressing my emotions? I will get there don’t worry.
I believe there are two parts to expressing your emotions*. Appropriate and inappropriate expression. Someone can be super expressive but not appropriate. Think for example a manager who always airs his discontent with his employees by shouting. This person is expressing his emotions. However, the manner at which is perhaps not appropriate.
So the first step is to first analyse how you express yourself. Is it appropriate or not? For example, think about how you react when things go well or when they don’t.
Once you’ve analysed it, ask yourself, “What am I learning about myself and what would I like to change?”
Secondly, you can also look at other people and list people you look up to and you feel express their emotions appropriately. Learn from them and try it on and make it your own.
Starting with those simple steps will go a long way.
Once you start finding your way, you can also start thinking about how you can respond instead of reacting to emotions. How cool!
Emotions are flags
The first step to being able to respond instead of reacting to emotions is understanding what emotions are and removing some of the subjectivity. See emotions as flags* or data points. They are just signals that are showing you that something is up.
The core emotions are:
Fear. You fear losing what you value. Fear is there to help you survive by protecting you from danger (think Lion attacking you), and it is also a response to perceived danger. So next time you sense fear, ask yourself what am I afraid of?
Love. Love is the ultimate power, the driving force of people.
Anger. This is the result of you believing there is a threat to yourself or something or someone you hold dear.
Guilt. You typically feel guilt when you do something that goes against who you want to be.
Sadness. This shows up when you have lost something or someone. It can also show up as disappointment.
Truly understanding these emotions and seeing them as flags will help you with responding. For example, you might be sad ir angry because you haven’t been able to sell your newly created product or service to a future client. So you might ask yourself why am I really feeling angry or sad? What is the story I am telling myself that is causing this emotion? As you can see you remove subjectivity and stop seeing emotions are “good” or “bad”. They are just experiences.
If you want to manage your emotions through your transition, let’s connect and have free non strings attached chat.
*This is based on my interpretation of the work copywrited work of Bruce D Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).