The other day a client asked me: “Why are feelings useful?!”
The question stomped me. My immediate reaction was a not so eloquent “well…uhh…because”. But after some careful thought, I had a (marginally) better answer.
Here’s what I said.
Information about our functioning
First, our feelings provide us with vital information about our functioning in the world.
Fear signifies danger. Sadness points to the loss of something or someone valuable. Anger alerts us that our boundaries are being violated. Joy means our body, mind and soul are being nourished.
Feeling our feelings allows us to respond appropriately and timely to the world.
Not feeling our feelings, on the other hand, is like walking blindly into a maze full of pitfalls. We run the risk of getting lost, missing out or putting ourselves in danger.
Think about it. Unprocessed grief can lead to depression. Unrecognized stress can turn into a burnout. Not being able to feel joy sucks the life out of us.
The heart of our relationships
So there’s that. A second reason feelings are useful, is that they form the beating heart of any relationship, whether it is to ourselves or others.
Sure we can relate on the level of information. We do that all the time, at the cash register, in meetings, even with our loved ones. It’s functional.
But it’s only when we connect to our own feelings, share them freely, and allow the feelings of others to touch us, that our relationships come alive.
Feelings are the basis of our personal vitality, resilient relationships, nurturing parenting, generative teams, and inspiring leadership.
Now, feelings are great when things are peachy creamy. After all, who doesn’t like to feel joy, excited, valued, loved or playful?
Transform and connect
But what about those 3 AM, hide-under-the-bed feelings like panic, shame, unworthiness, or incompetency? Why on earth would you want to feel those?
I am not suggesting those feelings are fun. They suck. But if we acknowledge and share them, they allow us to transform and connect. And if we deny or suppress them, they exhaust our energy and disconnect us from all that is dear.
We cannot control our feelings, but we can – to some degree – control our expression of them. If we express our feelings timely and appropriately, they become our allies, our teachers, our motivators and our guide to growth.
And that sounds pretty useful to me.
Ilja van Roon
P.S. I struggle daily with my own feelings, particularly fear in the middle of the night and the deep sadness at the death of a loved one. If you want to train yourself to be more connected to what you feel, then contact me or treat yourself to a half-day Free Exploration.