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  • Writer's pictureRusty McKie

Listening to Emotions

Emotions are tricksy.

We welcome some and exile others. Our family of origin’s interpretation of emotions shapes our current relationship to them. Off-limit emotions tend to stay off-limits. If we want to mature, we have to learn how to welcome all emotions because they are a gift from God.

However, our complicated relationship with them can keep us stuck — either avoiding or obsessing. As I said, they’re tricksy to navigate.

Next time you find yourself skeptical of emotions, one simple question can move you from leering at to listening to them.

One Simple Question

What do I want?

There’s always something under the surface of your emotions — values.

Think about it with me:

  • Why do you get mad at certain times and not others?

  • Why does sadness lodge in your chest one moment, but other losses slide off your back like a sugared-up kid on a waterslide?

  • Why do some life events make you happy and others leave you indifferent?

Our emotions cry out around our values, and listening is an excellent first step to learning what our soul wants.

Listening to Emotions

Let’s open our ears to the top four (others identify us as having more than four primary emotions, but I prefer keeping things simple).

  1. Mad — Tells me something I love/want/value is threatened.

  2. Sad — Tells me something I love/want/value is lost.

  3. Glad — Tells me something I love/want/value is received and enjoyed.

  4. Fearful — Tells me something I love/want/value is uncertain.

So next time your anger, sadness, joy, or fear take over your mental control panel like a Pixar character from Inside Out, ask, “What do I want?”

More specifically, you can ask:

  1. Does something feel threatened that I love (anger)?

  2. Have I lost something that I value (sadness)?

  3. What did I get that I want (joy)?

  4. Do I doubt I’ll get my heart’s desire (fear)?

Learning to listen to our emotions shines the light of a thousand suns. Far from steeping us in morbid introspection, emotions guide us into knowing what we want.

From there, we can choose how we’ll act and even shift what we want to line up with deeper values.


Do you need help navigating your emotions? Sign up for a free first appointment to see if I can help.

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