Men don’t cry, at least that what they told us. A man who’s too emotional is not a real man. Although James Bond seems to be gradually going to the softer side, there’s still a lot of pressure put on men to control their emotions. Of course men feel emotions too! Emotions are a crucial part of being alive and staying alive.
Let’s see what emotions are for.
Emotions drive action.
Emotions affect you physically. As you feel fear, stress or happiness your heartbeat can accelerate or decelerate, we feel our muscles cramp up or relax, our pupils dilating etc. These are survival signals inherited from evolution. They warn us from danger and prompt us to act on the spot in order to restore calm and safety. In that sense, emotions are much needed in order to take action.
I have coach plenty of men who felt very uncomfortable as an attractive woman passed by and even more uncomfortable as she walked away. The fear of embarrassment and rejection turns into frustration. It usually takes them a while before the feelings subside. Whereas when they finally recognize the internal signal for what it is: a call for action, they come back with a big smile on their face regardless of the outcome.
Emotions are helpful indicators which help us make decisions. For instance, when you’re in a job that goes against your core values your emotions will indicate that a change of career is much needed: apathy, anger, sadness…
Recently, one of my coachees had been dating a girl for a few weeks. Past the initial couple of dates, he started developing negative emotions. On an emotional level, he could sense something was off. But he tried to sweep these negative emotions under the rug and kept dating her. The emotions amplified and as they did, he tried harder to rationalize every behavious and every bit of communication that went on between them. Until finally he realized his emotions had been right the whole time: the relationship was toxic and going nowhere. He felt relieved when he ended it.
Sometimes it is enough to imagine a course of action to activate the corresponding emotions. This helps us make better decision that contributes to our happiness.
You know how hard it is to keep a poker face. One-third of our facial muscles are serving the sole purpose of expressing emotions. This serves a vital role in our social life.
Our mirror-neurons help us detect the slightest change of emotional state in the people we interact with. This way we know if they’re happy, sad, discouraged, fearful or angry and we adapt our communication and behavior accordingly. As this is a two-way road, it is easy to understand that flirting with a stranger will seem much easier after hearing great news. You have this huge sincere smile on your face and a twinkle in your eyes: chances are he or she will reciprocate. It’s called emotional contagion.
How do you use your emotions?
Merely trying to boss your emotions around just doesn’t work. In order to have some control over your emotions you need to be able to acknowledge them and connect to them. Try putting a word on what you feel for a start.
Or as we did as an exercise with my aforementioned client: try finding the song that best describes your current emotional state. Let it all out: dance, sing if you can. Moving on from that first song, try finding another, slightly jollier, tune and repeat. As you go down that playlist, your emotions will gradually go from wherever you started to a more positive state. This is a simple example of how you can get better control of your emotions by first allowing yourself to truly connect to your inner compass.
I remember going to my singing lesson after a strenuous day. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get into the music and I was dissatisfied with the sound of my voice. That was until my teacher asked me how I felt. I replied: “I feel rusty.” Instead of fighting it like I had done previously, she asked me to sing it “rusty”. I was unsure what that would sound like but I simply did it and it made a world of difference. I didn’t have to force every sound out my mouth. Notes came out effortlessly.
We can use our emotions to boost people’s motivation, trigger desire or help them feel happier. In order to achieve that it is equally important to pay close attention to your internal signals and to the signals your interlocutor sends. That way, you will enjoy the benefits of a truly empathic interaction. Something we all crave for.
Is it possible to feel only positive emotions?
Very often I hear from clients on a first session that they want to feel happy at all times, every day from morning to night. This is not only impossible but it would put us at risk. Much of our emotions serve the purpose of keeping us from harm, or indicating the urgent need for a change of direction. Similarly, a barometer that would be stuck on Fair Weather would be dangerous if a storm was on the horizon.
Let me know if this article was helpful in the comments section, I will answer all your questions.