Emotions are Information

The other week I blogged about vulnerability and art and I was really thrilled by the many responses and comments on Facebook and Instagram (@rona.writes.as.rachel if you want to find and follow me). It made me think more about emotions and the role they play in our lives. We’re so fascinated by them and feel the need to express them so often… we’ve created emoji’s/emoticons so that our texts can even reflect what we’re feeling.

As a romance author, I write about emotions all the time, they are at the core of all of my stories, the inner goals of my main characters. The more a character learns about herself or himself, the closer they become to the other characters. The more they feel the closer they are to their goal. I’ve been reading about emotions for years but only recently have I come to understand something else, other than a feeling that they give us.

Emotions give us information.

I am the mom of two teenage sons who are both in the stage where emotions which were once simple and clear are now murky and complicated. One day my younger son was trying to control his anger basically by negating it and looking for ways to make it disappear. In that moment I knew I didn’t want him to think this was how to deal with anger and I said, “Why are you angry? What is this anger trying to alert you to?”

As I said that to him it really hit me that emotions are neither good nor bad (but thinking makes it so?). Yes, of course, there are those we like better than others, those we’d prefer to feel but all of them are so giving us information. They’re telling us; I like this. This is right for me. I’m scared. This is wrong and I need help. Once you are aware that emotions are your mind’s way of helping you have more information about what is going on for you – a relationship, a situation, a choice – you may not feel the need to push the so-called negative ones aside.

When I did a Google search on emotions the first entry was from Wikipedia.  I know – but I was curious about what it said:

  • Emotion is any conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a high degree of pleasure or displeasure. Scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings and there is no consensus on a definition. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation.

There is no consensus on a definition???  How can that be when emotion is at the core of over 80% of the decisions we make, at the heart of every great book or movie (heck, Pixar made a film where we could actually see them controlling our days), and the cause of some of both the greatest pains and pleasures in our lives. Emotions have been a part of the most intense moments I’ve ever experienced – from birth to death.

By talking about emotions as information I don’t think I’m offering a definition, but I am personally discovering that the more I accept emotions – even (especially?) the ones I don’t want to be experiencing – as information, I learn more about myself and the people I am interacting with. I am more accepting of my reactions and I am not trying to tap down what I feel. In fact, most of the time I find I want more information and so I more fully allow myself to feel in any given situation.

Many women tap down their emotions. We hear that we’re too soft, too emotional. We’re too vulnerable, too excitable. Boys hear “Be a man” and that’s usually equated with being unyielding and unemotional. I think we are doing all of us a disservice by making emotions – the highs or lows – wrong. Perhaps it’s why so many people suffer from depression, years and generations of stuffing down emotions which were trying to support us. We are, I hope, coming to understand more and more the power and importance of emotions and I hope that by writing books where emotions are at the center of the story, at the heart of success, I can help that process.


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