Valentine’s Day, and indeed, the month of February celebrate love. Love can make or break worlds, cause wars, and bring beauty to life in a way nothing else can, all at the same time. We liken love to the heart, because we “feel” love, that particular warm, fuzzy feeling in our chests. We also “feel” the loss of love, that particular excruciating pain, like a knife slashing, again, through our chests. Both experiences are, literally speaking, close to our hearts.
These are not just perceptions — love and the loss of it do impact our bodies and minds. Research has shown how being loved and being dumped can impact the brain differently. For example, love can activate that region of the brain which lights up when we feel the rush of cocaine. Whereas loss of love, or being dumped, can activate those regions of the brain which physical pain does. The heart is no exception either: in fact, it is the one organ which can grow in strength with positive emotions, such as love and affection, and become weak with negative emotions, such as anger and bereavement.
The Power of Emotions
Clearly, our thoughts and emotions are much more than just ‘something abstract’. The mind and body are firmly connected, and the heart is the mediator.
Our emotions are powerful, and their impacts are even more so. It is widely believed, and even psychology says that we think before we feel, implying that we are, somehow, more of ‘thinking’ animals than ‘feeling’ animals.
This is far from the truth. Science tells us that feeling emotions, in their raw, wordless form, takes precedence over articulated thoughts. This is true regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or socio-cultural parameters. So, whether we are men, women, straight, gay, single, married, rich or poor, we all feel before we think — we all know this deep inside and we do not accept it consciously. This is the universality that breaks through all the labels, classes, categories we create to define and distinguish ourselves, and casts us in the one single mould of being human.
What does that mean for us? Emotions, with all their intensity, are boundless sources of energy and by channelling them in the right direction, we won’t run out of that internal fuel that keeps us inspired, motivated, going. However, for that to happen, we first need to understand the emotion itself. What do I feel? How intense is it? Why am I feeling so?
Getting in touch with our emotions and understanding them well is an important step towards traversing our inner worlds. It is also the first step towards emotional intelligence.
From Understanding Emotions to Understanding Ourselves
As we unravel our emotions — their true nature, the reasons behind them, and the impact they have on our hearts and minds — we begin to learn about ourselves. What makes me tick, ticklish and turned off? The emotion that makes me soar, where does it come from? The painful thought that just refuses to leave the recesses of my mind, what is it doing to my heart? Answers to questions such as these are paving the path to knowing oneself, and it takes time, will and focus to find them.
Yet it is crucial that we build the awareness because awareness precedes our choices. We go through life making choices at home, at the workplace, in our circles, and for ourselves. When these choices come out of an innate understanding of ourselves, they deliver positive outcomes and enable us to live, perform and grow better.
The journey to self-awareness is neither predictable nor linear, but certain things are rather steadfast. It is possible to control what we feed our hearts and minds. Pioneered by Martin Seligman, studies in positive psychology do state that it is possible for us to learn and harness positive emotions into benefitting our minds, bodies, and hearts. We can learn and adopt optimism, love and courage, among others, for pivoting ourselves on a journey within. In short, we can change what we feel, and with that, we can know, change, and love ourselves.
Year after year, the discourse around love is heightening and complicating increasingly. Our complex, modern lives are shifting equations within our marriages, families, and friendships. These are major and highly impactful shifts but tiding over any and all of them requires one fundamental anchor — self-awareness. At GPS Go, we journey together towards self-awareness to achieve a unique trio of personal, career and leadership development. Embarking on this journey could be your best gift to your most precious Valentine — yourself.
Gulnar Vaswani is a Diversity & Inclusion consultant, thought–leader, board advisor and executive coach to CEOs. Social scientist meets spiritual warrior, Gulnar is re-imagining leadership for the 21st century. Her latest initiative, GPS GO, is a unique program empowering millennials to find their inner coordinates and harness their leadership abilities, with the larger social dynamics in mind. Follow GPS GO on Instagram (gps_go) for mindful musings and updates!