Wherever I teach in the world, I find people were raised to show only good emotions and hide the others. We were told that good leaders, good friends, and good parents show optimism, enthusiasm, compassion, pride, and a good sense of humor.
We also learned that emotions such as disappointment, fear, anger, and guilt drain everyone’s energy, hurt other’s feelings, and spoil a good time. They are called negative or bad emotions. You should keep them to yourself.
I would like you to consider a different view of emotions. All emotions are a part of your human experience. You can’t experience joy without sorrow, peace without anger, and courage without fear. Life is richer when we allow ourselves to move through the dark as well as the light. The late Israeli leader Golda Meir said, “Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole hearts don’t know how to laugh either.”
All humans in every culture laugh, cry, and express emotions through facial expressions and posture. We cry, we kiss, we groom each other, we bicker, we defend, we cuddle, we console, we beam with pride, and we beat ourselves up with shame based on our needs to connect socially and be appreciated by others.
Your emotions affect your communications. When people can’t read you, they don’t feel safe to share what is on their mind or they become agitated for no apparent reason. If you are good at hiding your emotions, you create the experience of talking to a blank wall, which creates anger, frustration, or fear in others. If people sense you are angry, afraid, or disappointed, they may feel angry or afraid in response. Poker faces confuse more than calm others.
Additionally, nonpositive emotions can motivate productive behavior. They might trigger great change when channeled in positive directions. It is better to learn to recognize your emotions, so you can use them to explain your behavior and express your needs, and to channel your energy in a positive direction.
Let’s look at the light side of a few dark emotions. Keep in mind that your reactions to these emotions could be destructive. Other times these emotions serve a higher purpose.
Take time every day to pause and ask yourself how you are feeling and what you need to do differently, if anything. If you are stuck, seek help to uncover the source. Then you may be able to determine how you can channel what you feel to a positive outcome.
1. Rebecca L. Schaumberg and Francis J. Flynn. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown: The link between guilt-proneness and leadership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. August 2012, Vol. 103, Issue 2, 327–342.