Our Emotions as Meaningful Messengers
Our Emotions as Meaningful Messengers
Everything in nature is cyclic. There is a day and there is a night. With each new day, the Sun rises and shines upon us and when dusk arrives, the Moon appears and warms us with its gentle light. The four seasons change punctually each year with no exception. The same happens with the natural waters around us; they get cleaner with each new day and dirtier as the night comes. It is all quite cyclic and yet pulses every day in an immaculate Cosmic order. The same pattern regards another aspect of this divine project, the aspect that was created according to the image of God, and it is known to be a human being. In other words, we do seem to reflect the same cyclic nature that we are surrounded by. It is then of no wonder what is usually said about us humans, that we are parts of a micro cosmos, which on its part, is inseparable from the vast and infinite macro cosmos.
Emotions also form part of this constantly changing yet repeating pattern. There is a spectrum of emotions that could be felt in just one day. For instance, one could wake up with fear, which transforms itself into anger and despair throughout the day so that when the night comes, it all turns into complete sadness. The spectrum of emotions is similar to the well-known colors’ spectrum. Anger, jealousy, envy, fear, depression, and despair are all emotions that occupy the darker tones on that spectrum. On the other hand, emotions like joy, excitement, hope, and love, occupy the lighter tone of the spectrum. The big paradox about emotions is that not only are they cyclic, but they are able to co-exist in quite a contradictory manner, too. Accordingly, one loves his or her partner, but at the same time, one can also feel anger or hurt toward the same partner. The most challenging for our personal growth and psychological well-being are exactly the emotions on the darker part of the spectrum. Among them, depression is one of the most frustrating with a possibility to turn into quite a difficult overall psycho-biological state for the sufferer. Furthermore, those darker emotions are often the ones that tend to persist in time if suppressed or simply neglected. In other words, once repressed, the negative emotions return as more intensive or they can simply find their “way out” through somatic symptoms; and that is their ultimate call to be paid attention to and, to finally be resolved.
Understanding negative emotions is crucial, adding to their resolution. Here comes into play an important role of Logos. Different philosophers elaborated on the idea first and then later researchers in the field empirically proved that emotions move us toward connection with the world around us. The very etymology of the word ‘emotion’ indicates the process of moving out (rooted in the Latin verb emovere, where e meaning ‘out’ and movere meaning ‘to move’). However, according to logotherapy emotions are seen more specifically as transmitters of meaning which is an inherent part of reality. Furthermore, the most difficult emotions usually are the ones that, if addressed properly, invite us to attend to our deepest values and give us the existential courage to act in consistency with them.
Finally, there is a multitude of ways in which negative emotions could be repressed or anesthetized. For instance, when feeling anxious one can reach for narcotics, alcohol, or tranquilizers and shortly after feel less anxious, but not fully functional. The same process will then probably keep on repeating each time the anxiety is felt because the pseudo-solution one reaches for brings effortless, but temporary relief. In such cases, the core message of anxiety has not been addressed properly. The inevitable outcome then is surrendering to a vicious circle of addiction and suffering from an even deeper sensation of numbness and emptiness. Another way to repress emotion is to be terrified by it. For example, one can repeat to him or herself that anger is a forbidden emotion or that envy is an undesirable emotion to feel, and thus be terrified when they appear. What one does in such cases is refusing to address and process the vital message that those emotions might have regarding personal growth and sense of well-being. Lastly, in logotherapy the counselor mediates between a client and his or her emotions, and eventually the purpose of the therapeutic process is to help the client to listen to the voice of Logos hidden behind each emotion that is found as particularly difficult to process.