Clarity Counseling Seattle

How does that make you feel?

November 23, 2022
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Posted By: Clarity Counseling Seattle
Client dealing with emotions therapist in Seattle, WA

"How does that make you feel?" Isn’t that the quintessential question that we imagine (and make fun of) therapists asking us? For many of us this question brings to mind the image of laying on a couch telling a stranger with credentials and a yellow pad about our most private feelings. When a Seattle therapist asks this of their friends and family, especially a Seattle sex therapist, they’re often met with the terse response, “Oh my god, please don’t psychoanalyze right now.”

But joking aside, the ways in which someone relates to their emotions is often a huge determinant of how they experience the difficulties that bring them into therapy in the first place. So it’s useful to understand the role that feelings play in our daily lives so that we’re able to manage the less-than-pleasant ones (notice I’m not saying “the bad emotions”), such as anger, fear, sadness, and guilt, in ways that are more effective and constructive. This is something we often help clients with when they come to us for either individual therapy or couples counseling in Seattle.

Emotions play such an essential role in how we process and react to our experiences, as what we feel on a daily basis tells us which path we take at the crossroads of our decisions. Many of these emotions can be short-lived, which can be quick frustration when we make a mistake, or long-lasting when we experience sadness over losing a loved one. But why exactly do we experience emotions, and what role do they serve?

Besides basic biology, it’s important to understand the three critical components of an emotion. Each component can play a role in the function and purpose of your emotional responses. These are:

Subjective component: How you experience the emotion.

Physiological component: How your body reacts to the emotion.

Expressive component: How you behave in response to the emotion.

 

Emotions can motivate you to act.

When there is an uneasy or fearful situation, you might feel scared. Because of this emotional response, and likely only because you’re feeling that emotion, you’re likely to take appropriate action. If you’re standing in the road with a truck coming right at you, it’s fear that shows up to let you know that your need for safety isn’t met, and that you must act, which is what prompts you to move to the sidewalk.


Our emotions can initiate our flight or fight response.

Our natural instinct is survival, and in modern times the perceived threat is no longer a sabertoothed tiger but instead a nerve-wracking speech, a difficult conversation, or an upset spouse. Our emotions prepare our body to deal appropriately in response to the threat, by way of fear or anger. These emotions trigger the body's fight-or-flight response, which leads to a number of physiological responses that prepare the body to either stay and face the danger, or flee to safety. When a threat is present, the role of some emotions is to show up in your body and get you ready to remain safe.

 

Emotions influence your decision-making. 

Have you ever made an impulsive decision based on how you were feeling? You can thank your emotions for that! Emotions have a major impact on your decision-making. Emotions help you to decide what to have for breakfast or whether to accept another job opportunity. Even if you believe your decisions are guided purely by rationality, emotions play a key role behind-the-scenes. This is a crucial part of engaging our “emotional intelligence”: learning how to manage our emotions while making those important decisions.

 

Emotions allow us to connect with ourselves and others.

Our emotions often give clues to other humans to help them understand who and how we are in that moment. These cues include body language such as facial expressions, posture, and an openness or closedness about us that informs others about how approachable we are and what our intentions may be.


Just as you outwardly express our emotions, we too will receive emotional cues from others. Body language and voice inflection are just as important as the words we use and are often giving off much more information to others. Part of someone’s message is told through their nonverbal emotional expression, so how well we understand others’ nonverbal communication will help us respond appropriately and build deeper connections with others. Understanding our emotions also helps us to communicate more effectively and be in-tune with ourselves, which is the most important relationship we’ll ever have.

Therapists, both in couples therapy in Seattle and during individual therapy, are often helping clients to learn how to interpret their emotional experiences. It’s harder than it may sound, but completely learnable, so if you’d like to begin to understand your emotions better, please reach out!

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