Yes, even the “bad” ones
Some emotions show us what we love, others protect us from harm, and as you can see in the rainbow illustration from our book, all of them put together, like colors on an artist’s palette, paint a beautiful picture of life. I’ll explain these ideas below. And, I have a fun challenge for you that I call “the joy of fear.”
By the way, I think this illustration is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever drawn. I spent weeks drawing the emojis and discussing them with my editor (we wanted a very diverse group). Once we had our final batch of heroes, arranging them into this rainbow mosaic took another week. My favorite part of the illustration is actually the flower. You can see that the middle of the flower is composed of angry and scared emojis. It makes me laugh thinking of a beautiful flower being angry at the world. By the way, I didn’t plan this. In the art business, this is what I call a happy accident.
For me, learning to recognize and accept all my emotions has been a life-long process. Indeed, I spent years on a bicycle seeking happiness, and my co-author, Dr Sara, spent even longer in school. We don’t think everyone needs to spend years learning these lessons the hard way, so that’s why we wrote Feel Your Feelings. (Haha! When I just typed that, it accidentally got auto-corrected to “Free Your Feelings,” which is true, too!)
Stating these lessons in a different way, the reasons why we need emotions are:
One) Emotions motivate us.
Two) Emotions keep us safe.
Three) Emotions give life meaning.
Let’s discuss these ideas below.
Why do we need “good” emotions
We believe that all emotions are important. Without them, our lives wouldn’t be very colorful. And we mean that literally. In this case, I am defining “good” emotions as emotions that feel comfortable or fun. First off, imagine being a robot that just followed a program. You have no emotions, no motivations; you just do what you are programmed to do. That would be boring! Practically speaking, good emotions guide us towards activities that might help us survive, like friendship. And, not-so-practically speaking, they give us a sense of purpose, like wanting to make art for no other reason than it is beautiful.
Why do we need “bad” emotions?
Again, I define bad emotions as emotions that feel uncomfortable. If you read my previous article, Fear is Your Friend, then you understand the analogy that fear is a good thing because it warns us of dangers. And, if we listen, it helps keep us safe.
What happens if we avoid emotions
Before I talk about some fun aspects of fear, let’s talk about some un-fun aspects. It’s important to understand what might happen if we don’t learn how to allow, accept and honor our emotions. This might sound a little scary, but again, being scared is a good sign that we might be traveling down the wrong path. So what are some warning signs?
Example 1) What happens if we avoid feeling bad feelings? Imagine if you couldn’t feel pain, you might set your hand down on a hot stove and never take it off. Pain is more of a bodily sensation, but when you feel pain, you also feel fear. (There is a lot of neuroscience that proves that). And learning to be afraid to put your hand on a hot stove is a good thing!
Example 2) Not allowing ourselves to feel a feeling can quickly snowball into bigger problems. Have you ever felt sad and then felt embarrassed for feeling sad? Now you have doubled your upset.
Example 3) Or what if you decide that you don’t ever want to be sad again and that happiness is the only emotion worth having? (By the way, I made this mistake for years. And it took me that long to realize being sad is okay. But, that’s another story.) Dr. Brené Brown, who studies emotions, warns that if we selectively try to ignore or numb an uncomfortable feeling, we also unintentionally numb feelings like joy, gratitude and happiness. You can see her popular TED talk on vulnerability below.
The joy of fear
I hope those simple explanations gave you an idea of why feeling all your emotions is important. Now, let’s have some fun with fear. Fear and other uncomfortable emotions are NOT just things you have to put up with or work through. This may sound unbelievable at first, but a lot of people enjoy being afraid. And, I bet you do, too.
Example 1) Do you like riding roller coasters? Doesn’t the big drop and being weightless feel scary? Or going upside down? Our bodies instinctively feel scared of falling down and getting hurt. But when we ride a roller coaster, our brains know we are safe. So, we get to feel scared and then relief. It’s good practice for real scary situations.
Example 2) Do you like horror movies? If so, you want to be scared out of your pants. When it’s all over, you might even have a good laugh.
Example 3) Do you like Hot sauce? Did you know that people who like to eat hot sauce still feel pain? Yep! They like just the right amount of spiciness to light their mouth on fire. The interesting thing about hot sauce is that it’s not real pain in the sense that nothing is being damaged in your mouth. The enzyme in hot peppers triggers your pain receptors. The same thing with menthol; it triggers the cool receptors in your mouth. So, if you want to have some fun tricking your brain, you know what to do.
Example 4) Do you like new things? Any new thing is essentially an adventure. I love adventures. And I admit they are scary because I never know what will happen. But when I finish an adventure, I have turned a scary thing into a new skill or memory. In fact, if I feel scared about something, it is a good clue that I need to do that thing, provided that I know it is safe, like a roller coaster. I think of my adventures as little awards I can give myself.
Okay, my challenge to you is simple. Feel Your Feelings. I especially challenge you to go do something scary. I’d love to hear about your adventures. So, please email me or leave a comment below.
We learned why emotions are important. One) Emotions motivate us. Two) Emotions keep us safe. And, Three) Emotions give our life meaning. We discussed the benefits of “good” and “bad” emotions and what happens if we try to avoid our feelings. And finally, we discussed how practicing feeling our feelings, like fear, is actually a fun thing.
Feel Your Feelings
Feel Your Feelings, introduces children to basic emotions with fun poems that they can act out from head to toe. They will learn that emotions are our friends. Some emotions show us what we love, others protect us from harm, and all of them put together, like colors on an artist’s palette, paint a beautiful picture of life. More info.
Hardcover or eBook
By Scott Stoll and Sara E. Williams PhD.
Published by Magination Press.