Emotions 101: Emotions are like Gophers

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00:01 today we’re going to talk about some
00:03 emotional fundamentals uh i was i was
00:06 talking to a friend the other day and i
00:08 was giving him some advice some advice
00:10 and i thought it was going to be just
00:12 throwaway kind of advice like
00:14 i thought everybody knew these things
00:16 and and he seemed to really appreciate
00:18 it
00:18 and kind of get a new idea about how to
00:20 look at what was going on for him so
00:22 it occurred to me that maybe not
00:23 everybody knows some of these things so
00:25 i want to just back up and make sure
00:27 that we’re all on the same page about
00:29 what emotions are and what they’re not
00:33 and how to deal with them because
00:35 there’s there’s a few different ways
00:36 that we can deal with them
00:37 like gophers
00:40 and uh and so we’ll talk about that for
00:42 a bit um
00:44 so number one emotions the the emotions
00:47 and feelings they
00:48 just happen and this is a this is a
00:51 fundamental
00:53 characteristic of emotions is that they
00:55 just happen
00:56 there’s nothing we can do about them
00:57 happening they’re going to come up
01:00 almost no matter what we can’t stop them
01:03 from happening it’s kind of like
01:05 if we’re if we’re thinkings about
01:06 something we can’t necessarily
01:08 stop thoughts from jumping into our mind
01:11 we can’t stop
01:12 emotions from jumping into our hearts or
01:14 deep bodies or whatever
01:16 and this is an important aspect because
01:18 everything really flows from here
01:21 they just happen because they just
01:24 happen
01:26 you have let’s just call it a right you
01:29 have a right
01:30 to feel whatever it is that you’re
01:33 feeling
01:34 a lot of times you’ll hear people say
01:36 like oh i shouldn’t be feeling this
01:38 i’m more involved should be more
01:40 involved in this i don’t want to be
01:41 feeling this thing this is bad uh
01:43 or even like hey you to other people you
01:46 shouldn’t be feeling this anymore that’s
01:47 not what’s going on
01:49 and and i want to just like kybash that
01:52 uh you have the right to feel
01:55 anything that you’re feeling in any
01:57 given moment
01:59 it can’t be any different to say i
02:02 shouldn’t be feeling this way
02:03 is to deny the reality that you actually
02:06 are feeling this way
02:08 so that’s number two number one is they
02:10 just happen number two you have a right
02:12 to feel whatever you’re feeling
02:16 number three is emotions they’re not
02:18 they’re good or bad they just
02:20 are there’s no good emotions there’s no
02:22 bad emotions happy
02:24 isn’t a better emotion to have than
02:26 angry
02:27 um they they all just exist
02:30 there’s no uh you shouldn’t feel these
02:33 these types of emotions these are bad
02:36 jealousy rage anger fear
02:38 you should only be feeling happiness and
02:40 joy and gratitude
02:42 that’s not true they just happen we feel
02:45 what we’re feeling we have every right
02:46 to feel what they’re feeling
02:48 they aren’t good or bad and so we
02:49 shouldn’t categorize them into
02:51 uh things that we should or should not
02:53 feel
02:54 and then finally emotions don’t mean
02:58 anything now this sometimes can be
03:01 really hard for people
03:02 for whom emotions play a big part in
03:04 their world
03:06 they don’t mean anything and what i mean
03:07 by that is they don’t tell you
03:10 anything about external reality or
03:13 other people or what to do
03:18 they might tell you things about
03:19 yourself about what’s going on inside
03:21 and about how you’re handling situations
03:23 about how you view the world
03:25 any information that they might give you
03:27 is all
03:28 about yourself they do not tell you
03:32 anything about external reality and so
03:35 when i say they don’t mean anything
03:38 that’s kind of the idea is you can’t
03:41 take what you’re feeling
03:42 and then extrapolate oh because i’m
03:44 feeling this this is true about the
03:46 world
03:46 or this person or how i should behave
03:49 and act
03:50 that’s not true the only things they
03:52 tell you about what’s going on in here
03:55 so that’s kind of the i’m just going to
03:57 call it four of the most
03:58 basic fundamental principles of emotions
04:00 obviously there’s
04:02 entire libraries dedicated to this sort
04:04 of thing so this is not exhaustive but
04:06 these are these are
04:07 these are basic these need to meet known
04:09 to do any sort of
04:11 emotional intelligence and awareness
04:12 work later on and so
04:14 having having done that having known
04:16 that what do we do about them there’s
04:18 really three things that we can do
04:20 about emotions when they come up number
04:23 one is
04:24 feel them that seems obvious but it’s
04:27 not
04:28 uh it’s not the thing that we normally
04:30 want to do
04:32 unless the emotion is happy and even
04:35 then sometimes
04:36 unless it’s like really pleasant and
04:38 pleasing and easy for other people to be
04:40 around we often
04:42 don’t want to feel the emotion that’s
04:43 sad that’s painful
04:45 that hurts it’s going to take it’s going
04:47 to like take me out
04:48 for a week if i do this kind of if i
04:51 really go in and feel that
04:52 that’s not what we want to do a lot of
04:54 times we want to we want to like beat
04:56 down the emotion
04:58 and that’s number two right you can you
05:00 can ignore the emotion but it’s kind of
05:02 like whack-a-mole right this is where
05:04 this is where emotions are like gophers
05:07 it’s kind of like whack-a-mole
05:08 you beat down the emotion it’s going to
05:10 pop back up somewhere else
05:12 and you beat it down over here and that
05:13 same emotion is going to pop up
05:14 somewhere else
05:15 you can’t you can’t beat down an emotion
05:19 and make it go away
05:21 you can beat down an emotion that’s a
05:23 valid option
05:24 but know that when you do that it hasn’t
05:27 gone
05:27 it’s just buried itself in there like a
05:29 gopher it’s gonna
05:31 pop up again make a hole in your lawn
05:33 and cause you all kinds of ankle rolls
05:35 and problems right
05:36 so until you actually feel
05:39 the emotion it’s gonna stay there
05:42 and so number one is is the thing that
05:45 we can do with emotions is feel it and i
05:47 really recommend going this route
05:50 it’s more it’s more difficult it’s more
05:52 challenging in the moment
05:54 and it’s it’s far more rewarding because
05:56 every time
05:58 we beat down an emotion to be honest
06:00 we’re beating down ourselves a little
06:02 bit
06:03 every time we say no
06:06 to an emotion emotion is just life
06:09 happening through us right every time we
06:10 say no to that little bit of life
06:12 we’re kind of killing ourselves a little
06:15 bit
06:17 and that’s the third option is you can
06:19 take all of your emotions and just
06:21 completely
06:22 cut yourself off from them and not
06:25 feel anything you can’t say
06:28 i’m gonna cut myself off from these
06:30 difficult emotions i’m gonna
06:31 feel these really nice emotions that
06:33 doesn’t work it doesn’t work that way we
06:35 don’t cut off emotions
06:36 we cut off our ability to feel
06:39 emotionally
06:41 and so that’s that’s the third option
06:42 that’s the option a lot of people take
06:44 is this is just too hard
06:46 it’s too painful i can’t go through this
06:48 again
06:49 i’m not going to go through this again
06:50 i’m not going to go put myself through
06:52 that pain and difficulty
06:54 i’m going to cut that off i’m going to
06:55 cut off that hard part and what actually
06:57 happens is they cut off the joy
06:59 and the gratitude and the peace in all
07:01 emotions and
07:02 become more mental more robotic
07:06 and quite a bit more dead
07:10 and it’s kind of hard to say that but
07:12 it’s true i’ve spent a lot of time
07:13 in that unemotional dead spot
07:17 and i’ve spent a lot of time working
07:20 on going back up through these and
07:22 trying to feel them and ignoring it for
07:24 a little while and watching it pop up
07:25 again
07:26 and eventually really feeling things
07:28 more in full time certainly not
07:30 perfectly
07:31 by any means but my experience of
07:36 of going through that process of cutting
07:38 yourself off completely to
07:40 trying to be on the end of feeling them
07:43 real time is
07:44 my life feels richer i feel like i have
07:48 more life
07:49 in my life in general i just i just
07:52 enjoy life more and i feel more a part
07:54 of it
07:55 and so this is the this is the reason
07:57 why i want to
07:58 um what i want to do this video is
08:00 because i know that this is
08:02 a really tempting thing to just i’m
08:03 going to ignore this for a while
08:05 to i’m going to ignore this forever to
08:09 i’m just not going to feel anymore it’s
08:11 tempting because it’s easier
08:13 and easier doesn’t make a rich enjoyable
08:16 life
08:17 honestly what makes it more enjoyable is
08:19 feeling more of the pain
08:21 which allows you to feel more of the
08:22 happiness and gratitude and joy
08:25 they both come up side by side
08:28 i just actually went back and watched
08:30 the recording of that video and there
08:31 was one
08:32 little piece that i left out um it may
08:35 have come across
08:36 as being a bit flippant like hey just go
08:38 feel your feelings that’s easy and
08:40 and if you don’t do that then you know
08:42 you’re burying your emotions like a
08:43 gopher you’re killing yourself off by
08:44 not feeling them
08:46 it’s not actually that easy uh this is
08:48 one of the more difficult
08:50 things in life to do is actually feel
08:53 all of your feelings in the moment
08:55 and be okay with them that’s not a
08:57 simple process
08:59 there’s a reason that the therapy
09:02 industry is a
09:02 billion dollar industry or whatever it
09:04 is this is one of the more difficult
09:07 things that we can do
09:08 it’s also one of the more valuable and
09:11 life affirming things that we can do so
09:13 i strongly recommend that like everybody
09:15 head in that direction of
09:17 of feeling everything what’s going
09:18 feeling everything that’s going on
09:20 in the moment i just don’t want to make
09:23 it sound like
09:24 like this is simple and if you’re not
09:26 doing it there’s something wrong with
09:27 you because that’s just not true
09:30 and that’s today’s video thank you so
09:32 much please
09:33 let me know what you think about this if
09:35 you’ve had some
09:36 some experiences similar to this or if
09:39 you disagree if you agree if you don’t
09:41 understand if you have any questions or
09:43 comments or concerns please put them in
09:45 the
09:45 in the link in the description below in
09:47 the comments field below
09:49 and email me if there’s any questions or
09:51 other ideas
09:52 thank you very much
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This is how t

If there is one commonality that links all humans throughout history, it’s this: We all feel emotions. And most of us aren’t taught what to do with them.

Let’s change that.

Emotions 101

The Basics

Here are a few fundamentals about emotions. Obviously lives and libraries can be (and are) filled with this topic. This is not intended to be comprehensive, just to lay some groundwork so we’re all on the same page about what we’re up to.

They just happen. First, let’s be clear: Emotions just happen. You can’t do anything about them. It’s part of being human. It happens to everyone all the time. Yes, everyone. Even the people you wouldn’t think are ever emotional have emotions.
You have a right to them. We feel the way we feel. You have every right to feel whatever it is you are feel. You don’t need to justify or explain why you feel something. Admit to yourself that you are feeling this thing and let it be there. No need to change anything.
They aren’t good or bad. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about any single emotion happening.
They don’t mean anything. They don’t tell you about outside reality, other people, or what you or others should do. However, They can inform you of something going on inside yourself.

What To Do With Them

There are basically 3 things most of us do with our emotions. We either feel them, ignore them, or cut ourselves off from them.

Feel them. This is the healthiest thing to do. It is what I strongly recommend. But everyone knows this, it almost goes without saying. But it must be said because this can also the hardest of the options to make in any given moment. Some emotions are really difficult to feel and we just don’t want to! My invitation is to realize that it’s only a momentary difficulty and to do it anyway because in the long run your life will be much simpler and more enjoyable.

I’ve spent time in each of these camps and here is my opinion in why this one is the best. Because a full range of emotions are what differentiate humans from all other creatures. From depression to ecstasy, gratitude to jealousy, relief to excitement, we get to experience an incredibly broad spectrum of life. For me, a full emotional experience is synonymous with a rich life. The deeper my lows get, the higher my highs get. Having spent a lot of my life ignoring and not feeling much, I am far more gratified with my life now that I have all these ups and downs.

Ignore them. One options is to just pretend the emotion isn’t happening. This doesn’t usually go very well because emotions don’t go away until they are felt.

This is where emotions are like gophers: They stick around until you deal with them. The longer you ignore the gopher, the more holes he will dig in your yard. Eventually, you’ll be walking around and you can’t avoid them anymore; you’ll trip on a gopher hole and roll and ankle. This small thing you thought you could ignore will completely take you out.

Emotions work the same way. You can ignore them for a period of time. Sometimes that’s even a wise thing. If we are in an important situation and suddenly we get reminded of our long-dead grandmother, that might not be the best time to revisit grieving her. Gopher hole. Then we are at lunch with a friend we haven’t seen in a long time and we get angry about something she said. But it’s so good to see her we don’t want to let that spoil the reunion. Gopher hole. Eventually you’re going to have to feel them or else you’ll be in a meeting with your boss one day and bust out into tears because he said something innocuous and this small thing you thought you could ignore will completely take you out.

Cut yourself off from them.

One option that a lot of people choose is to completely cut themselves off from all emotions. They figure if they pave over the lawn, then they’ll never have to deal with gophers. Sure, the pleasant emotions are great and those gopher holes go away right way. But the hard emotions create gopher craters and those are just too hard to deal with, to painful to put themselves through, so it’s better to not feel anything.

That’s one of the downsides of this options is that we can’t pick and choose emotions to cut off and which to keep. Because to go down this road, we’re not cutting off individual emotions, we’re cutting off our ability to feel. So we also lose the ability to feel love, joy, gratitude, and all the wonderful emotions that make human life what it is.

What NOT To Do With Them

Finally, there are some things we shouldn’t do with emotions. They are a real part of life, but they shouldn’t rule our life.

Don’t behave from them. First, remember that emotions don’t mean anything about the outside world. So don’t act from your emotions. Don’t take your anger and lash out at people around you. Don’t let your guilt stop you from apologizing. Emotions want to be felt, not obeyed.

Stop saying “don’t feel that way”. We feel what we feel and can’t change that. Stop telling people not to feel the way they do about a situation.

Don’t pretend they don’t exist at work. Emotions are part of human existence. They follow us from home to friendships to work. Yes, emotions exist in the workplace. Anger, resentment, jealousy, pride, care, all of these things happen at work all the time and no one seems to mind. HR sees people crying all the time. For managers to say, “the office is not a place for emotions” is not only denying people their humanity, it also also denying reality. To demonize emotional expression in the office is to create gopher holes that will eventually knock down a company/department/team,

1 comment

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  • Tim,
    I loved this one- it is soooo right on and timely for me. I appreciate your clarity and I have always admired your emotional ethics
    Big hugs

Tim has been practicing and teaching interpersonal relations and communications skills since 2006. He leads the esteemed Boulder T-Group community and has taught circling and relational leadership for the Integral Center and C4 Institute.


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