Making sense of our emotions

Image credits: Kyle Broad / Unsplash

We all know making important decisions isn’t easy. I recently explored the topic of being true to yourself, but I didn’t go deep on how to investigate your emotions and how they lead to decisions.

The gut feeling is the first thing that comes to mind. While many discard it as myth, it’s a real thing. It’s been extensively studied and proven.

“This mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe. This information superhighway is called the brain-gut axis, and it provides constant updates on the state of affairs at your two ends.”

So, I’ll start by saying that we can physically feel emotions. As someone that does extensive physical activity, I listen very carefully to my body. I’m a big believer in the notion of heart-mind or body-mind concept. Hence, when my body is feeling awkward, I tend to listen.

When I’m experiencing powerful emotions, it will translate to an immediate gut gripping feeling. It all starts with that pressing feeling in the abdomen. I’ll wake up and sense it, deep within my body. That’s my trigger to be mindful and explore what’s going on.

Emotions tend to trigger other emotions, but there is a sequence to it.

My first question is trying to assess the type of emotion. Is it stress, fear, anger, sadness, happiness? It tends to be easy for me to distinguish them, even though sometimes there is an overlap. Some days I feel anger and sadness simultaneously. I then try to decipher which comes first.

Emotions tend to trigger other emotions, but there is a sequence to it. Like a domino effect, a given situation triggers anger, which in turns activates a rush of sadness. Or is it the other way around? A situation makes you feel extreme sadness, and in turn, it triggers our defense mechanism, anger?

See? The idea is to start unpacking all these emotions that tangle like vines. With patience, you can start separating them and understanding the cause.

The more you let your emotions run wild, the worst it gets, as you eventually spiral down out of control.

So while emotions elicit other emotions, they also feed back into themselves. The more sadness plays in our mind, the stronger it becomes, which in turn fires an even stronger anger reaction. This last spike can, and will, feedback into the sadness.

The more you let your emotions run wild, the worst it gets, as you eventually spiral down out of control. The problematic part is that the deeper you go into this trap, the worse your body feels.

Numbing your mind doesn’t help with making a decision.

Most people try to avoid tackling these feedback circuits using distractions. That is things like alcohol, drugs or sex. Guilty of charge, but as most of you know, it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s just a delay tactic. Let’s numb our mind and see if it goes away. Let’s be honest. It won’t. Or at least not on the short-term.

It’s through introspection that we break the grip of emotions.

Numbing your mind doesn’t help with making a decision. The emotions are there for a reason. The only way to break out of the loop is looking inward. It’s through introspection that we break the grip of emotions.

So the idea is to take the emotions apart, untangle them, order them and then analyze what trigger the first emotional charge. If it’s sadness, why did we feel sad in the first place? Do we miss something? Did we expect something? What makes us sad in general?

The more we dig, the more we will understand. The more we understand, the weaker the grip of the emotion is. Once we get some distance from the emotions, then the gut feeling starts to become obvious.

Use this information and make it align with who you are, with your core.

Reaching that point is the aim. We want to understand what our gut is telling us. What are the emotions telling us? Some people have larger emotional trips than others, but everybody responds to emotions for a reason. Find that reason. Make it rational; make it tangible.

Armed with that understanding, we can then start balancing where we want to go. Is guilt involved? Is regret? Are we factoring a decision because of ego? Because of fear? Use this information and make it align with who you are, with your core.

In general, we will be afraid of making decisions that stride away from the norm, from what others think is optimal. Try to isolate that fear, to break it down, to backtrack it to the source. You’ll start to realize that in most cases there is nothing to worry about, that’s all a charade of your mind.

Don’t be afraid to take bold decisions, dive deep into your emotional pool, make sense of it and learn as much as you can about yourself.


This story was published as part of the “Thousand Reflections by Sandbox” April series on Authenticity. To read more, please check out the main publication for more stories from young changemakers across the globe.