The Power of Emotions and Connection

Emotions serve a purpose. They alert us to pay attention, to be present to what is happening in or around us. We want to feel our emotions – to savor them when they are on the positive side and to work through them when they are on the negative side so we don’t get stuck in them.

Gerald Jampolsky, author of Love is Letting Go of Fear, said there are only 2 emotions from which all others come: Love and Fear. One is sustaining, the other is depleting.

All of what we would call negative emotions -  anxiety, anger, sadness, depression, inadequacy, hurt, guilt, shame and so on, can be called fear-based.  Emotions such as joy, happiness, caring, trust, compassion, truth, contentment, satisfaction, we can call love-based.

A natural or normal life has moments of joy and moments of stress and anxiety. Emotions affect our physical bodies. Fear-based or negative emotions that are not felt and released can contribute to illnesses like cancer, arthritis, and many types of chronic or auto-immune conditions. 

The present is always our point of power. We can learn from the past and we can prepare for the future – and it is in the present that we can act to heal the past and sow seeds for the future.

Negative emotions stimulate the release of one set of chemicals and hormones while positive-based emotions release a different set of chemicals and hormones.  If fear-based emotions are long-term or chronic they can damage the body. The immune system may be weakened and various serious or chronic conditions may set in. In these current times if you over-indulge in reading or listening to the news – 90% of it fear-based – you can see and feel the effects. This relationship between emotions, thoughts, and the body we've come to call the Mind/Body connection.

We live in such a fast-paced environment that we can lose our capacity to experience that sense of joy and zest for life. Not only do we lose that connection with the inner childlike sense of wonder, but also the deeper, richer experiences of fulfillment which are characteristic of the fully functioning adult.

You've probably heard people say - if not yourself - how speeded up time seems. Technology keeps advancing at such a rapid pace. We're in an age where information comes at us at ever increasing speed - and we no longer have time to process all that comes at us.  The result can be a sense of speeded up time, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed.
In this instant information age so much is going on and change occurs so rapidly. Personal tragedies - national and international tragedies and disasters – the state of the world. So many challenges unfold around us almost daily. They remind us that we're all connected. The world is growing smaller as we realize that actions anywhere can affect the whole. We're all cells in the same body of humanity.

We need emotions - they connect us to life and teach us valuable lessons. Without that connection human beings don't thrive  - or even survive. In the late 70’s I spent time in Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti, working with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. What I saw there was heart wrenching - people in unthinkable conditions in contrast to what I knew. At the children's home, one of the places  I volunteered, most were not orphans but kids from families who couldn't afford to feed and clothe them. There were several rooms that were occupied by the children during the day - the play room, the sick room, the dining room, the infant room, the bathroom, and an outdoor play area. In the sick room there were children with all manner of exotic diseases and debilitating conditions. In the infant room there were rows of cribs filled with little ones.

I met Michelle in the infant room. Although she was 3 years old, she was tiny and could only sit up. She was not able to walk or crawl and her arms and legs were thin, barely covered by flesh. Her hair was orange, distinctive of malnutrition in dark skinned people. What stood out most was her expressionless face and vacant eyes. I would pick her up when I came in the morning and carry her as I went around. I would sit her beside me when I was tending to others but mostly she was on my hip as I chatted to her or the other children, in a language she couldn’t understand even if she had been able to respond. There wasn’t a sound from her or a change in her blank expression. Then one morning when I entered the infant room I looked across at Michelle. She was watching the door and when I walked in her face lit up in a bright smile and her little arms reached out. She had connected. She was feeling emotions. I knew she had a chance to come back, a chance to live. We cannot thrive or even survive without connection. Emotions connect us.

Despite conditions, Haitians over all appeared to be a cheerful people. We have to wonder - How can it be that even in conditions of such poverty and illness there could be so much joy?

If we want to be at our strongest it's important to find ways to move from feeling helpless to acceptance of what is, with the courage to move on. We may not be able to control the circumstances outside of us, but we can and do retain control over our attitudes and responses to outside events. And it doesn't always seem like it, but we do have control over our emotions.

Habits of thinking affect our state of mind - our emotions and feelings. Everything is perception. Without even realizing it, we can fall into habits of thinking that contribute to making us feel weak, overwhelmed or powerless. How we frame our experiences in our minds determines how we feel and what we experience. When we catch ourselves in a negative thought we can reframe that thought into something positive. What we focus on we tend to manifest. Our thoughts are powerful. Reframing negative habits of thinking can change our perception of the world and our experiences in life.