Emotions matter. Validating our emotions matters. This, among other reasons, was why I was excited to check out the new film, “Inside Out,” although I will admit I was prepared to be let down by their portrayal of emotional reality. I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find that the overarching message of the film was to embrace our emotions, whether or not they are the ones we prefer to be having.
The movie is centers on a young girl named Riley, exploring both how she is affected by her emotions and how her parents respond to her emotional states. This is a very important piece for all of us to look at, as we are just emerging from what I call the Emotional Dark Age – a time where emotional reality (both our own and that of others) has been largely ignored or condemned, or both. To look deeply at our feelings and accept them, and to acknowledge and respect the feelings of others, is the essence of our learning curve as a culture at this time in human history. This is true for adults and children alike.
With parents specifically, there is also another crucial piece: guidance. Many parents make the mistake of not only disapproving of and dismissing a child’s emotional state, but also offering no guidance to the child regarding their emotions. All of these issues are portrayed in “Inside Out,” but the film does more than pull back the curtain on our mistakes; it offers insight into how we can correct things and move forward in a healthy, loving way:
1. Practice emotional awareness: The first step towards accepting someone’s emotional state and having compassion for that person is to become aware of their emotional state in the first place. True compassion involves awareness and understanding.
2. Practice caring: Care for the person expressing the emotion by recognizing their emotional expression as valid and important.
3. Listen actively and seek understanding: Set aside any judgment of the person expressing the emotion and tap into your empathetic self to hear and understand what they are expressing. It’s not about agreeing with them; it’s about listening and understanding.
4. Offer validation: Think of a time when you felt sad or scared or angry. How might that have shifted for you if someone could have acknowledged and validated your feelings through compassionate understanding? This doesn’t necessarily mean validating every thought a person is having; it means validating their emotional experience. In this way, we can help each other to heal and move beyond hurtful emotional states.
5. Honor their path: We can honor someone’s path by allowing them to be exactly where they are, experiencing what they are experiencing, without trying to change them or push them to heal or shift before they are ready.
Next time you are with someone who is experiencing an intense emotional state, you can practice these five steps to create a healthier, more compassionate, more loving encounter. And of course, at the heart of this practice must be self-love. Be aware and accepting of your own emotional state. Care for yourself by recognizing your emotions as valid and important. Set aside self-judgment and allow your personal truth to come forth. Acknowledge that your emotions are valid and honor your own path by accepting yourself the way you are, here and now. You are exactly where you need to be to learn what you need to learn and grow in the ways you need to grow.
This practice of self-acceptance will make acceptance of others – as well as love and compassion towards others – possible and even probable. We are emerging from the Emotional Dark Age, and each of us has the opportunity to discover a life of joy through living fully in our truth.
About the Author: Emotional expert and YouTube sensation Teal Swan was born highly intuitive. A survivor of ritual sexual abuse and torture, she now travels the world teaching others how to heal by discovering and owning their self-worth and self-love. Her new Hay House Publishing book, Shadows Before Dawn: Finding the Light of Self-Love Through Your Darkest Times, is a beacon of hope for anyone who has suffered trauma, struggled with fear or lost touch with their authentic emotional self. Teal Swan is the founder of Teal Eye, LLC and the accompanying nonprofit, Headway Foundation. Her vision is to enable everyone on earth to live free, joyous and healthy lives and she is determined to make that vision a reality.