To be human is to have emotions. Read that again.

Emotions are perfectly normal, and they can be extremely or sometimes overwhelming. We often find ourselves reacting strongly to situations and may not understand exactly why. Sometimes, well-meaning people in our lives tell us to ignore or minimize our emotions, and sometimes our friends will try to distract us or help us numb so that feelings are too uncomfortable to experience.

Like we say so often, emotions are like warning lights on your car’s dashboard. Just as those lights may flicker on if one of your tires gets too low or you need to add oil, emotions are your body’s way to suggest something may not be quite right. It’s a completely natural part of being a human being and it’s beyond our control. Our brains trigger emotions in response to situations. And, just as ignoring those dashboard warning lights can lead to serious problems with cars, ignoring emotions can cause bigger issues down the road.

Of course we can’t let our emotions overrule our actions. For example, it’s perfect normal to be apprehensive before a first date. If we let that anxiety motivate us to cancel the date, we may not meet someone who will enrich our life. But we can’t dismiss those emotions, either.

Some people see emotions as a sign of weakness. We believe it actually takes a very strong person to acknowledge and embrace their emotions, whether they are comfortable or not. When we notice our emotions begin to swell up, it’s time to become curious, lean in, and try to understand why we’re feeling the way we do. If we’re anxious, what’s making us feel that way, and what can we do to address that?

Suppose you’re extremely worried about a job interview. Is it because you doubt your ability to do the job? Is it because you know in your heart you really don’t want to work there? Are you afraid you’ll say something silly to the interviewer? When you dig in and discover what’s causing your emotions, you can develop strategies to address the underlying cause. If you truly don’t want the job, maybe you should cancel the interview. If you’re feeling a lack of confidence, focus on your past successes and what you’ll be able to bring. And if you’re worried about how you’ll answer questions, practice interviewing with a trusted friend.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your emotions or worried that they’re limiting your life? Are you afraid that leaning into whatever you are feeling – or maybe trying to numb – might overwhelm you? That’s a sign you may need some help understanding what you feel and learning how to respond. Why not share your thoughts with one of our professional counselors? We may be able to help you learn how to put those emotions to work helping you to be more confident and courageous. Contact us today.

Michael Spencer is one of our counselors and has been helping families for 20 years. Mike specializes in adoption, trauma, brain spotting, men in leadership, and sexual addictions.