Emotions: Do Emotions Have A Purpose?

Dr. Purushothaman
January 13, 2014


In recent years there has been increased awareness around emotions. Before all of this came about, IQ (Intelligence quotient) was seen as the most important factor in deciding how intelligent someone is and in how there life would play out.
This was until EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) was introduced. Here, ones level of happiness and ability to function for example is largely associated with their level of emotional intelligence.
For so long emotions have been portrayed as the enemies to our wellbeing and as occurrences that need to be controlled, manipulated and removed. And because of this paradigm there has been the tendency for emotions to either be repressed, suppressed or for them to be acted on.
Here one can either feel numb and completely cut off from their emotions or one can feel completely overwhelmed and constantly at the whim of their emotions. Either one of these options makes it extremely difficult for one to have emotional intelligence.
Whether one chooses to suppress or act upon their emotions does not necessarily lead to dysfunctional consequences. Just like how eating something unhealthy once in a while is unlikely to lead to bad health.
What will lead to dysfunctional consequence is when emotions are repeatedly inhibited or are expressed and acted upon without awareness.
How Does This Look?
This can be seen externally in different kinds of addictions and compulsions. Or it can just as easily be directed inwards; with the same emotional patterns constantly appearing.
It is often said that when ones emotions are directed outward one becomes angry and when these emotions are kept inside one becomes depressed. Although that is just one example of emotional expression, what is shows is that is does not matter whether emotions are suppressed or acted out; there is still the potential for problems to occur.
Some of the common ways in which emotions are dealt with is through the consumption of alcohol, drugs and food. What these do is allow ones emotional state to be momentarily and artificial changed.
Here, the painful emotions will be suppressed and this will allow for emotions to appear that will be the complete opposite of what one was originally feeling.
Emotional Regulation
What we can see in the above example is that these external sources are being used to regulate ones emotions. The problem with using these substances is that there effects don't last and that they will inevitably lead to long term health problems if they are consistently used.
And while these substances or any other thing that changes ones emotional state are being used, all that is happening to ones emotions is that they are being avoided.
The Garden
Here I am reminded of a garden and what happens to a garden that is not looked after. One of the common problems here is that it is going to become out of control and what is likely to grow here is not flowers or fruit (Harmony), but weeds (Disharmony).
And these weeds will continue to grow and cover the whole garden, for as long as it is not cared for and nourished.
What Does This Mean?
So what has this got to do with emotions? What this shows is that the longer one runs away and denies their emotions the stronger and more powerful they will become. And as this happens, it will mean one will need more of the substances and other things to keep them at bay.
Until the day when one becomes completely numb and void of all emotional expression. Not only will one no longer feel pain any longer, but feeling all the emotions on the other side of the coin will also come to an end as well.
Why Is This?
Having emotional problems and perceiving them as troublesome may appear to be normal and how life is. But this conclusion didn’t just happen and has its roots somewhere. And these roots are usually firmly rooted in ones childhood.
It is here that one typically forms their relationship with their emotions and this is a relationship that can last for a life time. And whether one sees emotions as friends or enemies will be defined during this time.
The reason that ones childhood is so important in forming ones relationship and understanding of their emotions is because it is here that one is first exposed to emotional experiences.
At such a young age a child has no understanding of them and therefore has no way of regulating these internal processes; this causes the child to look to its caregivers.
Healthy Regulation
And how successful the child will be in this action will depend on how emotionally intelligent the caregivers are. If the caregivers themselves are in tune with their own emotions they will be able to validate, mirror and sooth the child and as this happens the child will begin to feel at ease when emotions arise.
The child will then begin to internalize this ability and as time goes it will begin to regulate its own emotions. And from the experiences of being regulated by its caregivers, it will have learnt that no matter what emotions appear it can handle them.
Nonexistent Regulation
However, if the Childs caregivers have no understanding of their own emotions then the child is going to have a completely different experience. This is probably because their caregivers were the same and out of being unaware ended up repeating the same patterns.
Here there is unlikely to be adequate external regulation for the child. An even if the child is regulated by its caregivers it will be irregular and unreliable.
The child will then have no way of dealing with these internal processes; all the child can do is sit with them. And at such a young age this will overpower the child and cause great pain and suffering.
Emotional Baggage
So not only will these children grow up with the inability to regulate their own emotions in the present moment, but they will also have years of unprocessed emotions waiting to be faced.
And if one wasn't regulated as a child, it is not a surprise that they will have emotional problems as an adult. That is not to say that one is a victim of the past. What this does is create awareness and out of awareness one has the ability to change.
Emotional Intelligence
When one was a child; emotions appeared for a reason and that reason was often due to one being in some kind of pain. And the emotions that one experiences today are no different. Ones childhood may have been many years ago, but unless that original pain has been faced and processed it will continue to appear.
These emotions may be classed as negative or positive, but they are often letting one know about what has not been looked at and what remains frozen in the body and mind.
Self Regulation
Although one might have not been regulated by their caregivers, it doesn't mean that this ability is lost forever. One can begin to regulate their emotions through self awareness.

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