Emotions as Signposts

By David Ryback, Ph.D.

The choices we make are based on clear thinking about our lives.  The emotions are mere signposts indicating the general disposition of our reactions.

Do we lash out when we feel anger, as is our first inclination, or do we acknowledge our frustration in a more mindful manner?  Do we run away when we fear something, or do we mindfully share that fear with a supportive individual who might help us come up with a more productive solution?  Do we withdraw from someone we love when hurt, or do we choose to be our real self in the moment and share as openly as we can how hurt we feel because of our vulnerability to that special person?  The answers to these questions require mindful thought and openness.  The emotions themselves don’t give us the answers.  But they are priceless as signposts.

In general, bad emotions can be useful if we handle them with mindfulness—as indications for the need to pay more attention to whatever provokes such emotions, and to react with more thoughtfulness than usual.  Our first inclinations—striking out, withdrawing, giving up—are probably not the best.  It’s the balance between emotion and mind that gives us the advantage.  Instead of striking out, we can move forward in a more appropriate manner with more confidence.  Instead of withdrawing, we can seek out support to bolster our lagging confidence.  Instead of giving up, we can reframe our aspirations to better fit the environment we find ourselves in.

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