Happy New Year! It’s that time of the year where many people want to start anew. There is a feeling of optimism and much discussion about how to stick to New Year’s resolutions this year. I suggest that there is one resolution you can make that will determine your success with all other resolutions: learning about your emotional world and how it affects every aspect of your life — for better or worse.
Getting in touch with your feelings sounds like a cliché, but the reality is that when you don’t, you are operating with very little power. It is like sailing a sailboat without understanding how the wind affects its movement; external forces will frustrate any course you set. Trying to stick to New Year’s resolutions like dieting, becoming more organized, screaming at your children less or getting a higher paying job, without appreciating the role your emotions play in achieving these goals, becomes an exercise in futility. You might have some deep-rooted feelings about not being worthy that will interfere with becoming healthier. You may feel incompetent and not deserving of a raise. By getting to know your emotions better and learning to master them, you will empower yourself to reach any destination in life you choose.
We all have hundreds of emotions locked in our bodies’ memories from childhood. Many can be painful and extremely uncomfortable. The reason they are there is because when we felt hurt, fearful or misunderstood in some way, we usually didn’t have a constructive way to express or release them. Our parents were either unaware that we had those feelings or didn’t have the tools with which to soothe us. Having no place to go, the emotions got stored in different parts of our minds and bodies.
As we grew up these emotions remained unaddressed, because our culture tends to discourage us from exploring our feelings and does not appreciate the significant impact they have on our lives. Since they have not been examined and released, these immature feelings run around in our bodies, getting triggered and expressed without our awareness, wreaking havoc in our lives. Most of us have come to view our emotions as either nonexistent, something to avoid and suppress or out of our control. This leaves us at their mercy. It’s time to listen to our feelings and recognize the power that they have over us. We must begin by realizing how different our lives could be, how much more satisfaction and fulfillment we can experience in our relationships, our careers and our global community if we were to develop greater emotional mastery. The first step is to become more emotionally aware; to familiarize ourselves with all that lives inside us.
Think of your emotional world as an unfamiliar neighborhood you stumbled into. At first, you feel out of sorts, a little guarded and even fearful if it is late at night. If you continue to visit this neighborhood over time, it becomes more familiar and less daunting. Eventually you become accustomed to it and feel very comfortable and secure in the area. The same thing happens with your emotional neighborhood. When you first begin to pay attention to your feelings, it can be very uncomfortable and even downright scary. If you continue to visit with your feelings and hang out with them, you will come to understand them and be more able to manage them.
To bring this metaphor beyond conversation and into reality, my technology team and I have created a virtual emotional neighborhood. You can try this out right now. Simply go to whatareyoufeelingrightnow.com, and you will find an interactive tool that will help you explore what you are feeling. Brief video meditations guide you in getting in touch with and releasing your emotions, and then you can plot your feelings on a Google map and see how other people are feeling in your neighborhood. Zoom out, and you can see what other people are feeling in your city, state, country or even the whole world. Here is another way technology can be used to bring us closer to ourselves and each other.
The intention of this technology is to help people begin to examine their feelings and become more comfortable sharing them. Doing so will begin to remove the unspoken taboo that exists around feelings and bring this conversation out of the closet. As we establish a more comfortable attitude around our emotional neighborhoods, we can feel freer to share our feelings with our significant others and become better role models for our children.
To help spread the message of emotional awareness, we are also inviting people all over the world to create a compelling video or a photo that will inspire people to become more aware of their feelings and/or illustrate how not being aware of their feelings may hurt themselves or others. The videos and photos will be used to spread the word about emotional awareness.
Emotions affect all our lives, all over the world. Every living being is engaged in the same struggle, regardless of religion, race, nationality or political system. The farmer in China and the President of the United States each must get to know his or her own emotional neighborhood and harness its forces or continue to be subject to them, like leaves blown by the wind.