Have you ever been traveling to a new destination, guided solely by the navigation device either installed in your vehicle or on your Smartphone?
Recently, I was traveling in a different area of the county, and was using the Smartphone application, Waze, for directions and navigation. When I set out on my trip, I had a vague idea of where I was going, or least I thought I knew where I was going. Then the Waze instructed me to turn down an unfamiliar road, and I found myself cruising through a residential neighbor.
As the anxious feelings arouse within me, I checked the Waze to ensure that I had correctly input my destination address. I had. Since I was on a tight schedule, there wasn't time to double-back to the route I thought I should take. Instead, I would have to trust. To trust this app on my Smartphone. To trust the satellites off which the app was basing my location and the location of my destination. I would have to trust that I would arrive on-time, as expected.
The anxiety subsided when I finally observed a street sign indicating that I was head in the right direction, and shortly thereafter arrived without incident. The Waze was right, and the lesson about trust was obvious.
We trust chairs every time we sit on them. Without hesitation, we trust that automatic doors will open upon our approach. Yet, when it comes to our own thoughts and feelings, we hesitate. We question whether we “should” feel the way that we feel. We doubt whether our opinions and voices matter. Like the Waze experience, life is a process that we must learn to trust.
That is not to say that we walk blindly through life without regard for outcomes. Trusting the process is acknowledging that life is full of lessons to be learned and experiences to be had. Our emotions are never wrong, they just are.
Our emotions communicate, validate and motivate. In fact, Dr. Marsha Linehan identifies the functions of emotions, and in the theory behind Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, she encourages us to approach our emotions with friendly curiosity. Recognizing and embracing our emotions for what they are; indicators. Sending and receiving information from and to the world around us. Emotions are also motivational. According to dynamic psychotherapy, all emotions can be placed into two categories, activating or inhibitory. Activating emotions motivate us to approach, engage and become open and willing. Whereas inhibitory emotions prompt us to withdrawal, resist and protect. Both have equally important functions. Viewed from these perspectives, emotions can guide us through life, validating our very existence.
Trusting our emotions is like trusting the Waze app. While there was clear uncertainty as to whether the app would effectively guide me to my desired destination, there was a willingness to see it through. However, if the Waze instructed me to turn the wrong way down a one way street, or drive through a “DO NOT ENTER” barrier, I could draw on other resources to make a safer decision. If our emotions are to be considered indicators, we must be equally mindful that those same emotions do not become dictators. Thrusting us into behaviors and situations that can be harmful and ineffective, because no matter how intense the emotion; feelings are not facts.
Next time a feeling wells up in you, rather than immediately attempting to numb it, escape it, or suppress it, what if we invited it in with friendly curiosity to determine what it wants to tell us. Trusting the process of learning about ourselves and the world around us.
Be well my friend, and Live loved.