Posted by Leon Nacson on October 14, 2014
An Unexpected Way to Connect with your Emotions
It’s often difficult to find the time to truly sit with and appreciate our emotions in the rush of everyday life. Yet, at night, we get the opportunity to slow down, sleep and dream. And it’s in our dreams – and the change in rhythm of our minds – that we often tap into emotions that may have been trying to get our attention during the day.
To identify the emotions that pop up in our dreams provides a wonderful opportunity to connect with how we feel, and so better understand where we’re at and what is happening in our lives. Our dreams may reflect difficult times, but they can equally reflect joyous times, and every experience in between.
Theorist R. Plutchik’s (1980) suggested that there are eight primary emotions – joy, acceptance, surprise, fear, sorrow, disgust, expectancy and anger – and that other emotions are a mixture of these. So, for example, pride = anger + joy; love = joy + acceptance; hate = anger + surprise; guilt = joy + fear; shame = fear + disgust; and so on.
It’s not surprising, then, that we often feel confused when we are emotional, which is why it’s often important to ask, what exactly am I feeling?
When a feeling is identified, we become aware of what it is that brings us joy, peace, wonder and so on in our lives, and, if we identify a particularly difficult emotion, it can help us to find out what needs to be done (if anything) to work through it.
Often, the best way to “work through” an emotion is to simply allow it to be, and it’s also often helpful to define the emotion. For example, if you are feeling jealous, it’s helpful to know that jealousy is intolerance to a perceived rivalry or advantage. You can then explore the feeling in context to the dream by asking questions. You’re now in touch with the emotion and the “why” of the emotion.
It’s helpful to remember that every so-called “negative” emotion has the potential to be “positive”. It’s only energy. And defining emotions as either “positive” and “negative” is misleading. It’s more appropriate to define them as either a time of expansion (when we feel generous, loving, confident and complimentary) or a time of contraction (when we feel sad, confused and lonely).
Dreams are a great way to get in touch with times of contraction and expansion. When we work with the emotions that our dreams evoke we get in touch with the many different shades of emotion, which are as assorted as an artist’s palette.
We learn that emotions are universal and transitory. We also learn that how we work and live with emotions is unique to our personality and life history, and that because of the transitory nature of emotions, we can often find that what we are experiencing is out of kilter with where other people are at.
Often we don’t tend to mind when we are feeling on top of the world, but when we don’t feel so hot, we often want the people close to us to understand and reach out, but if they too are feeling in low spirits, or even angry at us, it can be difficult. That’s why it’s so important to get in touch with and learn to accept, as much as possible, our own emotions. And while it’s wonderful to share our emotions – our pain, fear, joy, sadness, anger, and so on, with others – we must, as adults, also take responsibility for them.
To help you to better work with the emotions that accompany your dreams, I encourage you to spend a few minutes each morning to sit with them before you get up. The idea is to help you to clarify your dream and get in touch with your emotions so that you can center your thoughts and begin your day with insights that bring self-empowerment.
Choosing to appreciate the emotional terrain that is part of the human experience is valuable. It’s when we are in touch with our own emotions that we can truly feel compassion for others, and reach out to them in times of need. So, the next time you wake up feeling sad, angry, joyful, lonely… whatever… take the time to sit with it. Give your emotions a voice; don’t wait until they have to scream at you for attention.
Every morning when you wake up, write down any feelings that arose while you were asleep or while you were dreaming. When you get in touch with your emotions and learn how they influence your life, you can in turn learn to take charge of them, rather than let them take charge of you.
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