The short answer is…. Yes, there are several advantages!
Think about this for a moment…
Have you ever:
- wished that you could eliminate a particular feeling (or emotion)?
- felt controlled by your feelings (and wanted that feeling to go away)?
- wondered if, perhaps, it wouldn’t be better if all feelings (at least the ones that “feel” uncomfortable) would disappear.
The answer is most likely yes (to at least one).
By the way, while scientists distinguish between emotions and feelings, for the rest of us, they are basically the same.
In each of the above cases, there is an implied underlying assumption.
Wanting to “eliminate” some feelings assumes that there is no advantage to having those specific (or most) feelings.
This assumption that it would be best to eliminate some emotions is not at all uncommon and stems from the disadvantages of emotions..
Several (This isn’t a comprehensive list.) disadvantages of feelings include:
- some feelings “hurt” (or are experienced as painful)
- sometimes, based on a misperception, feelings can lead to inappropriate behavior
- feelings happen very quickly so they are experienced as controlling us (This is a myth.).
- there is a learning curve to mastering them
As all of the disadvantages can be overcome, let’s focus on the advantages of feelings.
While this is also not a complete list, 5 advantages that come to mind are:
- Your emotions are your “window” on the world.
- Your emotions “protect” you.
- Your emotions allow you to gain control over your life
- Your emotions facilitate your interacting with others.
- Your emotions make life interesting and engaging..
Some important facts:
- You can’t eliminate your feelings because they are “hard-wired” into your genetics.
- While you can try to deny your feelings, ignore them, or project them onto others, they don’t go away.
- There are some psychological disorders where the emotional circuits seem to be disconnected and severe trauma might impair some of these circuits but these disorders can lead to some very undesirable behaviors and I wouldn’t wish severe trauma on anyone.
So, you can’t eliminate feelings and the costs of disconnecting your emotional circuits far outweigh the benefits, so you might strongly consider learning how to master your emotions and make the most of the advantages they offer you.
Let’s discuss the advantages of feelings.
1.Your emotions are your “window” on the world.
The Emotions Cycle describes how your feelings “work”. This is the cliff-notes version. I have discussed the emotions cycle in greater detail in other posts…
- You unconsciously scan your surroundings for “threats”
- when you perceive a threat, your brain automatically puts you on alert and prepares you to take action to eliminate or escape from the threat.
- You become aware of the perceived threat and are given the opportunity to assess and evaluate the nature of the threat and to decide how you want to respond to the threat.
This is a link to a PDF of the Anger Mastery Cycle. The “cycle” for other emotions is very similar.
When you take the time to assess the emotion, you become aware of how you are perceiving your world and your interactions with others. This is the message of the emotion.
This message is your “window” into your world.
Or, to put it another way, your emotions give you access to the lens through which you are interpreting what you are experiencing.
For the more familiar emotions, the messages are..
Anger-you perceive a threat that you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. Anger prepares you for war.
Anxiety– you perceive a future based threat that might, or might not, hurt you. Anxiety prepares you to either give up and freeze (distress), or buckle up and take the actions to prepare yourself for the threat should it occur (eustress).
Fear – you perceive a threat that will kill you. Fear prepares you to get the hell out of that situation. Fear is not the same as anxiety.
Sadness – you are aware that you have experienced a significant loss. Sadness prepares you to back off and heal.
2.Your emotions “protect” you.
You are driving in your car and you notice a “sign” (street sign, electronic bill board) that alerts you to take some action which protects you from an unwanted outcome.
Your emotions, as threat detectors, serve the same function as these warning signs and provide you with important information.
When we lived in caves, all the “threats” we faced were survival-based in that they would kill us if we did not detect them. So, we evolved emotions to alert us to these threats. While, today, we face psychological threats (not survival threats), the emotional early alert system hasn’t changed.
We subconsciously detect a threat, go on “red alert” and we are ready for action.
This is the protection that emotions provide.
Our emotions also subconsciously prepare us to take action against the threat.
This action is linked to the perceived nature of the threat.
When we lived in caves, this subconscious process of detection, alert, and preparation for action could mean the difference between life and death.
Today, the preparation for defensive (or aggressive offensive) action happens very quickly and, if not countered, is the basis for the “disadvantage” of believing your emotions control you noted above.
Fortunately, we have evolved a thinking brain which gives us an opportunity to counter the “red alert”.
3. Your emotions allow you to gain control over your life.
Once you become aware of an emotion and the message it communicates to you about how you are perceiving your surroundings, you can actively assess the nature of your situation and choose how you want to respond (rather than react) to what is going on.
The “control” you gain is in the choice you have regarding how you will mitigate the situation your emotions have alerted you to.
4. Your emotions facilitate your interacting with others.
In an episode of Star Trek, Mr. Spock, a Vulcan with suppressed emotions, becomes acting Captain of a crew stranded on an alien planet. He makes all the logically correct decisions to protect his crew and gets all the wrong results because he “fails” to consider the feelings his crew were experiencing.
The emotions other people express toward you give you important information about them which you can use to adjust how you interact with them.
To put it another way, when you understand what feelings are and the messages they communicate, you now have an insider look at how the other people in your situation are perceiving what is happening between you and them and you can choose how you want to adaptively respond to them.
5. Your emotions make life interesting and engaging.
I have mentioned that many of our emotions are threat detectors which prepare you to engage for self-protection or “flee” for self-preservation.
The message of other emotions is that we need to proactively engage because it is “beneficial” to us in some way.
Think of the feelings of surprise, happy, excitement, and gratitude.
These feelings add spice and color to your life and elicit your willing involvement in whatever is going on.
So, in summary, while there are some disadvantages to feelings, I believe the advantages far outweigh them.
And, by doing your research (check out the Index tab above) by reading some of the 150+ posts covering all aspects of emotions, you can acquire the information you need to overcome the disadvantages and begin mastering your emotions as adaptive tools.