This is the first of two posts designed to help you own your emotions so that you can use them to empower yourself in your interactions with others.
This post looks at the issue of owning your emotions by validating them and whether you should express or discard an emotion based on how appropriate it is.
The bottom line is that all emotions are always valid but might not be appropriate.
I will use anger as an example.
Let’s look at some definitions. (from dictionary.com)…
valid: having force, weight, or cogency; authoritative.
appropriate: suitable or fitting for a particular purpose, person, occasion, etc.:
In the Emotions as Tools Model, all emotions are adaptive and, therefore, valid.
The reason all emotions are valid is that your emotions reflect and are a direct result of how you (subconsciously, at first) perceive your situation. Because they are a reflection of you, your emotions have cogency and are authoritative in that they reflect your initial “analysis” of your situation.
Your brain constantly scans your surroundings for any possible threat and, when a threat is detected it subconsciously and quickly formulates a fast analysis of the threat. The function of your emotions is to alert you to the threat prepare your body to act quickly to help you survive.
The words threat and survive are italicized because they are highly subjective and are based on you, your current situation, your past, and so forth.
Your emotions inform you about a possible threat based on this initial, very quick, scan of your situation. This means that your emotions start out being highly idiosyncratic (or unique to you).
The emotion, per se, is the same for everyone.
My anger is the same as yours and conveys the same message that there is a perceived threat and that this threat can be eliminated or overpowered.
How the emotion reflects your perception of threat, however, is unique to you.
In other words, there are three “reasons” why there is a distinct possibility that your initial assessment could be inaccurate…
- your emotions reflect your initial assessment
- your initial assessment is based both your past and present experiences and
- the actions of another person may be ambiguous,
Your perception may not be accurate to the extent that you have…
- misunderstood your situation (the other person’s actions are ambiguous)
- misinterpreted your situation (you have viewed their actions through a filter clouded by your idiosyncrasies).
Therefore, your emotion, which reflects that perception, may not fit the situation and may not be appropriate to what is going on.
The emotion of anger informs you that you perceive a threat that you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. Anger prepares you for war. The threat can be physical and involve your personal safety or it can be psychological in that it reflects an “attack” on your ego, your values, your sense of right and wrong and so forth.
The perception of a psychological threat can be very subjective.
It is, however, important to note that just because your perception is subjective does not mean it is inaccurate, incorrect, or inappropriate.
You may be very subjective and you might be very accurate in that you are being “attacked”.
The task, then, is to acknowledge your emotion as real and valid and then to assess each emotion as soon as you become aware that you are experiencing it and determine the extent to which that emotion accurately reflects the situation in which you find yourself.
In other words, the appropriateness of the emotion.
A visit to the Index tab, above, will give you access to many posts which will help you learn to do this.
In my next post, I will address the issue of reclaiming your emotions.