Here are answers to two readers who asked similar yet different questions about emotions...
1. A reader from Australia, asked this question: "The one question I long to know the answer to so that I can move forward is, how can I begin to respond to people rather than react emotionally?"
People, therapists and researchers frequently confuse irrational thoughts with emotions. Irrational thoughts, not your authentic emotions, cause you to react irrationally to people. For example, road rage is not a feeling or emotion. Road rage is a conditioned reaction which surfaces in people when they get behind the wheel and someone gets in their way.
Road rage is based on irrational thinking. It is composed of hostile thoughts which attack other people and judge them as if they are wrong and bad. This is a reaction. If you have trouble with road rage or defensive reactions you need to learn to tell the difference between a thought and a feeling. Emotions and feelings connect you with others, with yourself and with reality. It is through your feelings that you naturally respond to people with empathy.
For example, when an emotionally healthy person gets stuck in traffic they are relaxed and patient. If someone cuts them off at the pass, they don't care, they are glad that person is getting away from their car. They do not want to be around out of control or aggressive energy, which could easily cause a serious car accident. It is your obsessive, defensive, irrational thinking that is the problem, not your emotions. Emotions do not have the ability to be irrational or rational. Emotions are energy in motion. They are composed of vibrations, colors and energy without reason.
An effective way to tell the difference between irrational thinking and emotional expression is to spend time in Nature. The vibrations of emotions are in harmony with Nature. When you are surrounded by harmonious energy, the erratic, jerky, irrational thinking becomes more obvious.
Nature can help you learn to tell the difference in how these two states feel in your body so you can take appropriate actions. Feel your body relaxing on a blanket, as you hear the gentle waves breaking against the shoreline. Smell the salt sea air and feel the moisture against your skin as you breath deeply into your belly. Suddenly, everything is still and you feel at peace.
Nature reveals your irrational thinking and makes it easier to sink into your body and emotions. This is one of the many reasons I have been conducting Nature Workshops for 25 years in the Forest and at the Beach. Resonating with harmonious, healthy Mother Earth helps you stops irrational thinking, so you can choose to let your emotions move.
2. Another reader wanted more information about how to express emotions in safe ways so you can become emotionally vibrant.
As long as you are expressing authentic emotions or feelings you will be safe anywhere with any emotion doing anything. The only danger is when you react to an event or situation instead of expressing your feelings. A reaction is a knee jerk response like the road rage mentioned above. Knee jerk responses are conditioned responses based on irrational thinking.
One of the most powerful ways to tell if you are in the middle of healthy expression or unhealthy reaction is to notice your body. If you are breathing and in touch with your body, then you are in the expressive mode. This makes you stronger.
If this is in your awareness... "She said so and so," "I can't believe he did so and so," "I should have said so and so," "He thinks I am so and so" ...you are in the middle of a reaction. When you are reacting, you go from one thought to another thought repeating, obsessing, and defending yourself and your behavior. This makes you weaker.
Instead of talking and thinking about this difference I show you exactly what these two states feel like in your own body. One of the untraditional ways I do this is to take people to the Beach. As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted many years ago, my "Co-therapist is Nature." Using Mother Earth to help me, I show you how to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy energy quickly.
When you resonate with Nature, just as one tuning fork tunes into the other, you quickly sense a deeper, new body awareness. As you stop resisting Mother Earth's gravitation pull and allow her to support your whole body you sense new information. Your new, deeper body awareness provides the biofeedback you need to take home and put into practice the next time you find yourself in an unhealthy reaction.
When you know for sure the difference in the energy between a reaction and an emotion, you will find lots of safe, fun, creative ways to express your emotions.