Improve your communication skills by discovering how science has busted these 10 myths about emotions. Tap into the deep psyche of human emotions and stop them from holding you back in life. Read this article and understand how it can help you become a more empathetic colleague or leader.
Emotions can be a touchy topic to talk about. Because of the fact that people rarely talk about emotions and feelings, it is very common for people to hold wrong and misguided beliefs about emotions. If I look back, I can see that I spent the first five years of my career living in emotional darkness. It was only when I found myself in a leadership training and the topic of emotions came up that I realized my blind spots.
“The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.”
― Richard P. Feynman
Ever since, I have done multiple trainings and read hundreds of books on human psychology, behavior, and the neuroscience behind it, which has revealed a previously hidden world to me. I can’t even begin to express what a vast difference that has made to my performance and wellbeing.
When people don’t understand how to deal with anger, jealousy, anxiety, and other complex emotions; there is no way they can help themselves and those around them address these emotions. Educating oneself about the scientific and proven truths about emotions is the first step to take any further steps to support and empower people.
Below are the 10 Myths:-
- Weak People Get Emotional, Strong People Don’t – Emotions are as natural as breathing. Every human being has the full range of emotions – joy, anger, sadness, surprise, happiness, frustration, and more. If you are a human being, you will experience these emotions at some point in your lives. The first myth, which is almost accepted as an unspoken truth in society, is that only weak people get emotional. What I have learned is that nothing can be further from the truth. Being aware of our emotions and expressing them consciously demonstrates strength, not weakness.
- Showing Emotions is Unprofessional – People are often crucified for showing emotions, especially in the workplace. “Real men don’t show emotions” — We all have been encouraged to hide their emotions or suck it up. This not only impacts our health and well being but also prevents important conversations from taking place. Every emotion tells us what we care about, and to not express them is to miss an opportunity to resolve the underlying matter.
- Being Angry or Upset is Wrong – I believe anger is one of the most compassionate human emotion. The more attention we pay to our anger, the more aware we can be of what it is trying to tell us. There are no right and wrong emotions. There are no positive and negative emotions. Our emotions are always valid, and an inevitable part of being human. There is nothing wrong with feeling frustration and anger. It only becomes a problem when we don’t know do what to do with our anger.
- We Can’t Control Our Actions When Dealing With Emotions Like Anger, etc – While getting angry or emotional might be natural, we always have a choice to choose our action in the face of our emotions. Over time I have learned that we can always witness our emotions as they arise instead of being sucked into their gravitational power. Although it might feel very tempting to respond impulsively when we face intense emotions, we can always calm ourselves and choose our response consciously.
- We Should Suppress Our Emotions – Allowing us to experience the full range of emotions can be overwhelming, but never allowing them to surface has an even bigger impact. Just like tying a wild horse only infuriates him, repressing our emotions never works. When we do so, we end up suffering inside while putting up a brave face on the outside. By suppressing emotions, we are bound to explode sooner or later. It also results in stress which ends up impacting our health in the long term. Emotions need to be expressed, without suppression or explosion.
- Venting Makes Us Feel Better – Sometimes people give advice to vent out our emotions, especially when dealing with anger and frustration. This is a commonly held misconception that venting out makes you feel better. Instead what it often does is traps us into a certain way of thinking and rationalizing that might be difficult to get out of. Research shows that venting out to our friends about our boss, or venting our anger out on a punching bag rarely helps. The only thing that actually helps is to consciously choose to address what the emotion is trying to tell us, and then express ourselves in a way we can be proud of.
- Others Are Responsible For Our Emotions. We Have No Control Over Them – There are different factors that can trigger our emotions. We often feel helpless when dealing with emotions. What we don’t realize is that dealing with emotions is a skill, and just like any other skill, it can be practiced and improved. Playing victim and blaming others for our emotions might be an easy way out, but seeing this myth for what it is could be the first step to building emotional muscle. As we get to know more about ourselves, we learn our emotional triggers and become more skilled in expressing emotions in a way that we can be proud of.
- Negative Emotions (sadness, anger, frustration) Happen to Bad People – There is nothing negative about emotions like sadness and anger just like there is nothing positive about joy and happiness. Emotions are neutral and a part of being human. It is just that we tend to associate and label emotions as positive or negative based on how pleasant or comfortable they make us feel. If I experience fear, sadness, shame, anger, or frustration that doesn’t mean that I am good or bad. There is nothing to be ashamed or scared about if you are experiencing these emotions.
- Emotions Are Not Important. We Can Live Without Them. – Many people believe that emotions only make them weak and lead them towards bad decisions, so they decide to not feel anything at all. They go inside their shell and act like they are all rational. Nothing could be further from the truth. Research has proven that emotions are integral to making decisions, and it is emotions that help us choose one choice over another when making decisions. If we were to have no emotions, we would not be able to make any decisions at all. Besides the decision making aspect, we will miss out on joy, love, happiness, excitement, and fun if we choose to live without being emotional. Would such a life be even worth living?
- Emotions Suprise Us by Coming Out Of The Blue – There are always warning signs before an emotional storm, though we might not always be aware of them. We can always look out for symptoms for bottled up emotions to suddenly explode. We all have emotional triggers which we are not aware of. With the right effort, we can understand these triggers and increase our self-awareness. With enough practice, we can always learn to identify these signs of emotional distress (in ourselves and others) before it gets too late and difficult to recover from them.
I feel that we do our best work when we are emotionally engaged. Only when we can separate the above myths from the realities about emotions, we can reflect upon and listen to what they are telling us. We can then act in a way that is consistent with our values and long term objectives. When we think of emotions this way, we can turn them into a strength rather than a weakness.
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”
― Alan W. Watts