Do you know how to experience more emotions and crucially why that is important to do so? In terms of how we process information about the world, we tend to rely on three out of our five senses, more so than the others. Your five senses are, of course, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. When processing information for the purposes of communicating with others it’s more likely to originate from what we see, what we hear or what we feel. We don’t tend to go around smelling and licking other people too much to take in information – which is probably a good thing! In regards to the ‘seeing’ obviously, that means what you take in visually and with ‘hearing’ that is what you take in through your auditory sense but with ‘feeling,’ it relates not just to the touchy-feely tactile but also your internal emotions.

There is something else that we talk about and recognise within NLP. People process information logically and they do it through their thinking. This is a little like having an extra sense except that this isn’t one of the five senses that you’re born with. The reason why you’re not born with it is because we are not born with language. This additional sense of ‘logic’ is called ‘auditory and digital’ and it’s basically the process by which you analyse, think and apply language to the world that you are experiencing.

When applying language to the experiences it is always going to be a step away from the real-life experience that you are having/had. For example, if I pointed out this beautiful red that I have on my jumper. There is a lot more to that colour than just the word ‘red’ there is the warmth, then the depth, shade of that colour none of which is really accurately described just by calling it ‘red’ because there are other shades of red as well. The colour red describes an awful lot of redness unless we’re getting very specific about the exact shade of red we’re talking about then different people are going to represent that word to themselves in very different ways.

Why is this important?

When it comes to our emotions and discussing how we feel, the words that we use to describe those emotions are not true to the emotion itself. It is simply a label for a feeling and as human beings, we’ve got pretty good at kind of creating some similarities between different feelings, experienced by different people and the labelling systems that we give them. If I talk about ‘happy’ you’ve probably got some similar idea to what I have about what happy means when I use that word. Similarly, if I say ‘sad’ you have some representation of what sadness feels like which is probably going to be not too dissimilar to what sadness is experienced like within me. However, that said there’s going to be different depths to those emotions – different levels of severity and intensity which are not portrayed in the description of the words ‘happy’ or ‘sad’. There are going to be other emotions that overlap and get thrown into the mix maybe, change the tone of that sadness or that happiness which, again, are not described when we just used the label of ‘happy’ or ‘sad’. Emotions are very complex and when we start talking about them we’re stepping away from the true experience of what it is to feel that emotion.

The reason why I am appealing to you today to be open on an emotional, kinesthetic level to the full spectrum of emotions – be them positive ones or more negative ones is for this reason: I’m going to tell you a story…

Yesterday, I went to see my mum she is in a care home because she has a brain disease called frontal temporal dementia and it is a rare kind of dementia. It affects the brain in a different way to something like Alzheimer. The starting point of this disease was when I noticed that her behaviour decision-making and ability to say and do the right thing was becoming blurry. In fact, she was quite insensitive about some very important things and that something seemed a bit off. The disease creates little proteins that plug up the brain and causes it to disintegrate so the areas of her brain where she previously used to do things like empathy and understanding and caring have dissolved.

I had this interesting conversation with her yesterday where I was explaining to her about an upcoming hospital appointment and the nature of it’s quite serious and so I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t worried about it. I asked her “How are you feeling about it?” and she said, “I feel numb”. Now because of the nature of the hospital procedure, I didn’t know whether she meant physically numb or something else.

I said, “Do you mean numb like you can’t feel your body or do you mean numb like you can’t feel your feelings and your emotions?”

She replied “Numb like I can’t feel any emotions” and it struck me that she’s in a position now where she doesn’t have a choice to feel feelings. This isn’t like when someone deliberately or even perhaps on an unconscious level subdues negative emotions to serve a positive purpose. This is neither a conscious nor unconscious decision. This is a lack of capacity to be able to possess those skills to tune into good emotions or bad ones.

I said to her at the time that the sad thing about that is that you don’t get to enjoy the good stuff but the good thing about that, is it means that, you don’t have to worry about anything! You don’t have to worry about any procedures or what’s going to happen in the future because you don’t feel anything about it. She could be quite stoic about it. Sometimes if a person is very Auditory digital (logical) they may be disconnected from emotions.

I felt the need to communicate to you that sometimes you might be deliberately bypassing emotional content because it feels tough or because it feels sad and that might cause you to miss out on the good stuff too.

Negative emotions are all part of your human experience. Sometimes we need darkness to be able to appreciate the brightness of the light.

I was speaking to a friend recently who has been in a mentally abusive relationship. I noticed that when she talked about the really good times and why it was worth staying in the relationship, she was comparing those ‘good’ times against the really bad times where things had just been nasty, manipulative, cold, volatile and vicious. If you have become used to cold, spiteful, volatile and vicious and someone is a tiny bit nice for a change, that can seem like the best thing in the world but it doesn’t mean that it is the best thing in the world. If things are usually really bad, ‘average’ can feel like bliss.

We need to give ourselves access to the full spectrum so that we can see a contrast between what is a bad situation and what is a very good situation and we don’t just get caught at one end.

When we give ourselves access to that full spectrum of emotions and we allow ourselves to really pay attention to the bad stuff and make sense of it or sit with it, sit with that sadness, hurt or grief for a while rather than try and rush ourselves out the other side of it, then we give ourselves, not just the contrast, but the appreciation of what it is to truly have something better.

By Gemma Bailey