I remember the first time I read "all emotions are beautiful". I thought, I love this manifesto, but really? All emotions are beautiful?
I don’t like sadness, grief, shame, anger, loneliness… you know, the usual “negative” emotions that most of us will do anything to avoid. But over the last few years I have done a lot of research exploring emotions and the mind & body, mainly for my own healing but also in complete curiosity about us humans and how we work.
And yes, all emotions are beautiful.
You can interpret emotions as negative or positive but the deep truth is that they are all equal. It’s our human judgement that causes them to be bad or good.
As a human being, you will never be exempt from feeling any emotion. The fact is, you will feel things good and bad – so do you want to waste your energy wishing your feelings were different, or do you want to embrace your emotions and use them as a catalyst for growth?
I really like the Tantra Yoga philosophy when it comes to emotions – don’t analyse them or attach yourself to them, just allow them to come and go. You are not your emotions. They are just passing through you.
Every action we take results from us either chasing or avoiding an emotion. Even the simple act of having a coffee is emotionally loaded. It’s not the coffee as such that you are chasing, but the emotion that you hope the coffee will bring you.
For you, it might be a sense of time out. Maybe it’s a feeling of self-pampering or indulgence. For many of us it’s the hit of extra energy and motivation to get through the day. All of these scenarios either have a positive emotion at their core, or it’s an attempt to mask a negative emotion. Whatever it is you’re chasing, it’s something more than just a cup of hot brown bitter liquid.
I used to think that there were some emotions I rarely experience, like anger. But anger will arise in you throughout your lifetime – it’s just how much attention you give it and what you do with it that matters most.
We often unconsciously go to extremes to avoid some feelings because we are conditioned to think that challenging emotions should be repressed, dismissed or abolished (paradoxically, this approach can only strengthen them). We can numb ourselves with alcohol, food, sex or aim to get all-time highs through adrenaline sports. My personal avoidance tactics include eating, keeping myself super busy, stuffing around on social media…did I say eating?”
If we’re not running from emotions that make us uncomfortable, we are gripping too tightly to experiences we deem positive. Too much attachment to positive emotions is the same problematic equation as avoiding negative ones – it’s just the other side of the coin. From an early age I became attached to the emotions of happiness, joy and contentment (we all do really). And I work really hard and very consciously to make sure that these feelings are always in abundance in me.
However, when it comes to unwanted emotions, unless I allow myself to sit and accept whatever emotions are coming up for me and to honour those emotions with compassionate curiosity as they arise, the emotion just keeps on keeping on. By denying or avoiding unwanted emotions we only make them stronger. We might think we have dealt with an emotional challenge by “letting it go”, but unless we first go through the process of feeling the emotion without resistance, it will express itself some other way – often through physical illness, fatigue or depression.
The key to emotional harmony is to practice compassion towards all your emotions. It’s hard to wrap your head around but fundamentally, all your experiences are equal – it’s only your mindset and interpretation that allocates a value of positive (I like this feeling! More please!) or negative (This is awful! Make it stop!).
To remind myself to practice non-judgement toward all my human reactions, I use the mantra all emotions are beautiful. So when I start to feel a certain emotion come on, I just notice it and say, “Hi [anger, jealousy, shame], you’re back.” I sit with it, make friends with it, drop any judgement and I try really hard not to beat myself up for having that feeling, because that leads to a dead end. Ever feel sad and then get cranky at yourself for feeling that way? That is really helpful… said no one ever. Ah, we humans are funny.
One thing I know for sure is that the more we resist an emotion the more it persists, like a toddler at our ankles demanding our attention. When you turn to your toddler and engage with her for a few minutes, she is often happy and then runs off to play. But ignore her and she will bug you until you acknowledge her needs. It’s the same with emotions and it’s helpful to think of them as little babies who need your love.
So now I allow myself to feel all the emotions. It’s ok to cry, to feel sad or angry – just don’t hang out there forever and have a full-time pity party. Feel it all – it’s called being alive and being human. So love all of it! And love yourself through all of it.
Life is messy, beautiful, crazy, unpredictable and scary all at the same time. So yes, all your emotions are beautiful.