The Gifts of Emotions

A photo by Milada Vigerova.

Photo by: Milada Vigerova/

“There’s only one good one on there,” is the response I often receive from clients when I hand them a sheet of what are considered the “core emotions.” These emotions are: Anger, Hurt, Sadness, Loneliness, Fear, Shame, Guilt, and Gladness. The final one on the list often stands out and reminds us of a certain tune… “One of these things is not like the other.” Society today teaches us that we need to suppress our various emotions and do whatever we can to feel gladness – and only gladness. The narrative we are told suggests that any other emotion is negative and we need to distance ourselves from them as much as possible. To feel these is a sign of weakness.

To be fair, there are definitely negative possibilities when encountering these emotions. Any one of them can become “impaired” and lead to an unhealthy outcome. Anger can become rage; hurt can become self-pity; sadness can become despair; loneliness can become apathy; guilt can become toxic shame that goes from a place of saying “I did something bad” to saying “I am bad.” Even gladness can become impaired to merely promoting happiness and/or entertainment without the substance and depth allowed from the intermingling of the emotions. While these impairments are possibilities, there are also gifts that these core emotions can give us. Anger can awaken us to injustice and give us the energy to do something about it; sadness informs us that something we are upset about is valuable and important enough to bring about such emotion; loneliness tells us of our need for community; fear enables us to remove ourselves from situations that could be harmful to us; even shame, which often is seen as a purely negative emotion, can be a gift when it provides humility and frees us from perfectionism by showing us that we are imperfect – and that imperfection is ok (even beautiful).

Each of these emotions has a place in our lives; all parts are welcome. When we stop running from them and instead work toward understanding them, we can benefit greatly from the gifts that these emotions offer. Relationships with others and ourselves can change for the better. Here at The Refuge Center, we are honored by the opportunity to walk with you as you come to understand your internal happenings and work toward bringing out the gifts they provide.

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