Listening to Our Emotions
Ilene Dillon is a world-renowned change agent and transformation specialist. Believing that truth is simple, she seeks and imparts the most straightforward and simple ways to understand and live life. Known as the Emotional Pro, Ilene has conducted her Parenting Consciously and personal awakening workshops worldwide and on Internet radio. She was interviewed by Francine Silverman.
Q. You state that emotions are our best friends and that we should listen to them. Ignoring negative emotions such as anger or rage could kill us. But don’t we all know when we feel guilty, fearful, lonely or happy?
A. I like to look at emotions as friends, Francine, because I’ve discovered that emotions have been given to us humans to help us navigate our lives. They’re with us 24/7, working diligently to give us feedback that helps us make decisions that are right for us.
Emotions are energy in motion. Each emotion holds a different “energy signature,” which, when we know it, signals us and helps us make our decisions. “Love,” for example, signals “come closer.” “Fear” signals “watch out, be careful, and unknown territory.”
I’m known as “The Emotional Pro” because of my work to help people master — not manage — emotions. In my learning, there is no such thing as a “negative emotion.” All emotions are valuable, in that they signal something to us.
Those emotions, such as rage, that we view as “negative” behave negatively because we tend to hold them inside. When we hold an emotion inside of us, over time, it tends to grow in strength and power. Thus “anger” can turn into “hate,” “rage,” and “violence.” The trick with emotions is to keep emotional energy moving.
When we try “not to feel” an emotion that is coming up, or we “don’t want to be angry” and tuck that anger inside of us, we are holding that energy, just as we would hold water behind a dam in a lake. As the water keeps building up, it gets deeper. If a hole in the dam arises, that water will rush to get out. It can create a lot of havoc.
This is why people often “fall apart” emotionally, even from something that seems small. That small event acts like a “hole” in the dam we’ve constructed to hold those emotions inside.
While we may know when we feel a particular emotion, most people don’t allow themselves to experience the emotion, examine it, learn from it, and collect its signal. Instead, we shelve it, where it grows in power and waits for an opportunity to escape.
We do this for fear of having the emotion get out of control. The principle that applies here is this: “When we operate on the motive of fear, we are guaranteed to create the very thing we’re afraid of.”
How many of us have vowed that we’re not going to get angry in a particular situation (because of that fear), and end up exploding in rage?
“I lost control,” we say to ourselves. “I couldn’t help it. My rage just took over and I couldn’t stop it.”
My psychotherapy office has been filled — for over 41 years — with people who are concerned they have a problem because they keep exploding, when they intend not to. Anger takes over because we tried to stop it. When we allow ourselves, instead, to know what we’re feeling, experience the emotion, and then work with it, we’re able to release it, so the energy of that emotion moves on, harmlessly.
Q. What’s the importance of identifying each emotion?
A. So we can work with it. Emotions are our allies. They’re trying to get us to pay attention to something, make a change, alter our perspective, or behave differently. Each emotion is giving a different signal. On my web site, www.emotionalpro.com, there is a free download of seven everyday emotions and the signal they give.
When we know the particular emotion and its signal, we can work more effectively with the emotion and its energy. The signal of loneliness, for example, is that we have more energy going out than coming in. When we know we’re feeling lonely, and that we have an overabundance of energy going out, we can make changes in our lives to alter that flow of energy. We can ask for a hug, take in something that lifts our spirits through reading, take a walk in nature, or take a nap. As soon as we do, we stop feeling lonely.
Some emotions are connected to other emotions. Under anger is hurt, for example.
Some emotions are “real” and some are “synthetic.” Take guilt, for example. It’s a form of anger, which is defined as “anger, turned inward, that we feel like we don’t have a right to have.”
In working with guilt over the 41 years I’ve been a therapist, I have found that we usually feel guilty when we’re in a dilemma. We have at least two things we can choose, and neither of them is a good choice for us — we will lose no matter what we do.
If your mother wants you to do something with her on the exact date that you’ve scheduled a get-together with your dearest friends, you’re going to feel guilty no matter what you do. If you don’t spend time with your mother, you’ll feel guilty. If you don’t get together with your friends, in favor of spending time with your mother, you’ll feel guilty and bad. There’s no way to win.
If you recognize that you feel angry (and under anger is hurt) to be in that situation, then you can work with the anger and release it. The guilt evaporates.
Guilt is a “synthetic” emotion, by the way. Remorse is a real emotion, signaling us that we’ve done something that doesn’t feel right for us. Guilt on the other hand, holds us responsible for something connected to others, not to ourselves, and keeps us stuck in the past.
Q. What are the seven skills of love?
A. It would take me way too long to list and discuss all seven of the skills of love here, Francine. Instead, let me talk about one of them: the desire to know and learn about others.
Almost everyone knows that delicious feeling of “first love,” where we find out such interesting things about each other. We really bask in the fact that the “One” we have found actually wants to know the things we like and dislike, the story of our life, and our favorite music. That’s part of the feeling of being “in love.” The reason for this is that one of the skills of love is this desire to know and learn about the other person. Whenever we do this with anyone, they feel loved (and it doesn’t have to be a romantic love).
Over the years of doing marriage counseling, I have found that many people stop being curious about their partner. That’s when the partner begins to feel “they don’t love me,” because the other person seems not to care. If this ever happens in your life, be sure that you are providing information about yourself, and not waiting for the other person to ask.
In intimate relationships, you can also ask your partner to ask you about your life, telling him or her what things you’d like to talk about. I’ve found that there are all too many families in which people stop really asking (and really listening) in order to get to know the other person. This is a tragedy, because the simple act of wanting to know about the other person, and expressing this, can open the door to ongoing feelings of love.
Silverman, F. (2014). Listening to Our Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/04/02/listening-to-our-emotions/