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-Emotions As Messages-

From: Chee Hung Ngoh
Date: 5 May 99 20:40:08 PDT

Hi all,

This is a rather long article. Please save it or print out for leisure reading.


Once upon a time there was a King who received a messenger from a far off land. The messenger brought news that the King's favorite daughter was about to marry the son of one of his most hated old enemies. The King was so angry that he killed the messenger on the spot. As the King's guards came to remove the body he discovered to his horror that the messenger was his daughter in disguise. Too late, he realized that she had disguised herself hoping to prepare him and dampen his angry reaction so that she could eventually reconcile him to her marriage and receive his blessings - for they loved each other deeply.

What is your first reaction to an uncomfortable or difficult emotion? Is it to seek ways - sometimes any way - to stop it, get away from it, kill it!

What is an emotion? These feelings that can run our lives, that are the glue that keeps us together or the force that can destroy us. An emotion is a thought or idea accompanied by a bodily sensation; it is experienced as a form of energy. We are frequently unaware of the original thought or the awareness is short-lived and fleeting. With intense and dramatic emotions such as joy or terror, the body sensations are obvious; however, when the emotion is more mundane and ordinary, as with boredom or annoyance, the physical sensations can be so subtle as not to be noticed.

There are no bad emotions; there are desirable and undesirable emotions, but no bad emotions. Because an emotion is painful or uncomfortable does not make it bad. When a loved one betrays you, it is human and appropriate to feel hurt and disappointed - you would be less than human if you did not.

You may not want to feel emotional pain, but when you find yourself in a hurtful situation it is appropriate to feel that hurt. The essential question about emotions is not whether they are good or bad, but whether the emotion is appropriate for the situation. That is, does the emotion match the circumstances. For example, a well-educated, intelligent woman who goes back to graduate school and sometimes feels confused and overwhelmed is feeling emotions that match or are appropriate for that situation. If however she goes from confusion into panic or terror, that emotion is inappropriate for that situation; it does not match the circumstances. When you're going through a divorce it is appropriate to feel loss and pain; it is not appropriate to feel these emotions every time your mate leaves for a day of work. This does not make these emotions bad - only inappropriate.

Being human you may often have these "inappropriate" emotions. What does this mean? You are being paged urgently! Any recurring emotion that does not match the situation is a signal - a message about some aspect of your life.

A young man is working as a vice president in the family business. He suffers from depression; yet the circumstances do not seem to warrant this response. He is married to a woman he loves, his first child is happy and healthy and he earns enough money to provide comfortably for his family. This emotion is a messenger. A messenger that is trying to tell him something about his life.

Ordinarily he would ignore the feeling, hoping it would go away, drink or take anti-depressants, have an affair, work triple time - anything not to feel his depression. Encouraged to feel this emotion within the frame of learning about the message beneath the depression, he begins to realize that this emotion is about how and where he spends his working life. Deep down he has never wanted to be in business and work in a city, in a skyscraper, in a sterile office. He really wants to work outside in the freedom of the fresh air, in contact with the earth and nature - growing things. He wants to be a farmer. Now if he had killed the messenger - buried the depression with pills, liquor, sex, work, he never would have realized this essential truth about himself and probably ended up divorced, estranged from his child, with an ulcer or worse, dissatisfied and wasting his potential for a fulfilling life.

Emotions are a gift that makes and keeps us human - you have a right to feel any and every emotion you experience. When they match the circumstances they express your humanity, heal and complete the experience so that you can go on with your life cleanly without the excess baggage of unrecognized or unexpressed emotions. When they do not match the circumstances they become opportunities to learn something important about yourself and your life. That is when you must listen - these emotions are your teachers, don't run away from them. Ask yourself, "what is this emotion trying to tell me about my life?"

A middle-aged woman constantly felt guilty about the cleanliness of her house. She was overly conscientious about cleaning, so that she was always tired and neglected her family. When she tried to relax and do a little less in order to enjoy her family more she was plagued with guilt. She was encouraged to pursue the message beneath the emotion of guilt - for it was certainly inappropriate for the situation. The universal message of guilt is that you have violated your own standards. This woman discovered that she wasn't using her standards for cleanliness; she had been using her mother's standards and always falling short. When she developed and used her own standards she began to spend less time cleaning, felt good about her house and family, and was free of guilt.

The message is different for each person; however, there are certain universal messages contained in some of the more common, frequently experienced emotions. The following list is a guide to help you explore and learn from your emotions.

GUILT: A message that you have violated your own standards. Be sure you are truly using your standards, and that they are appropriate for the situation. You can modify and adjust standards and learn for the future.

DISAPPOINTMENT: A message to change expectations. Disappointment results from not having our expectations met.

DEPRESSION: A message that you need to change something about yourself and/or your life.

HOPELESS: A message to let go of something.

JEALOUSY: A message that your emotional well-being is threatened.

ENVY: A message that there is something you want. Is "it" worthwhile enough to go after?

STUCK: A message to go outside of yourself and gather more information and resources.

ANGER: A message about the need to stop the abuse - from self toward self or from others toward self.

PROCRASTINATION: A message that either you don't know how to do something, or you don't want to.

Emotions are your friends, your allies - not to be used as excuses to avoid thinking or taking action; but to respect and learn from. When you allow yourself to feel something you are in process and that process moves you forward so that pretty soon you're feeling something else and moving on.

Sometimes people are afraid that if they 'give in' to their emotions they'll drown in them. Just the opposite is true; "giving in" to

them will move you through the tunnel to the light of learning and change at the end. Emotions don't get us into trouble - it's the emotions we have about our emotions that trap us and keep us on a treadmill of negativity and stagnation.

Emotions are our teachers and opportunities to learn and change. Listen for the message and don't kill the messenger.