Sometimes, I’m driving somewhere when out of nowhere an annoying little beep will draw my focus to my gas gauge. I’ll check it and see that annoying light screaming, “You’re almost out of gas!” The beeping gas light is a bossy reminder that I have to get gas or else I won’t be heading anywhere in my car. I could ignore the beep and light, but then if I ran out of gas on Cerrillos Road during rush hour, I may have to deal with a lot more than a dead car.
But, what if I had never driven my car before? The beep may sound, but I would have to figure out that the beep means that I’m low on gas and that the gas light turns on and stays on until I’ve gotten gas. It may take a couple of times, but I’ll learn both what the beeping gas light means and what I’m supposed to do about it.
Our emotions are a lot like the beeping gas light because they signal to us that something needs attention or action. It’s important for everyone to understand their emotions and what to do about them. Emotions are important tools that can motivate our thoughts and behaviors. I believe we all need to pay attention to what we feel, without judgment, so that we can understand what to do with the emotion. Feeling what we feel is ok; it’s how we respond to what we feel that’s the key. If we use drugs and alcohol to change our emotional channel, we run the risk of losing the ability to feel anything, at all.
Emotions are signals that communicate important information so that we can move forward through life. Judging our emotions interferes with understanding. It may take some patience, but accepting our emotions in the context of their meaning is the key to accurate response. So, the next time I run out of gas in front of you on Ceriillos Road in Santa Fe, NM, get mad, just don’t punch me. Maybe you can offer me a ride.