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  • Writer's pictureHelen McGillivray

Embracing Your Emotional Data by Helen McGillivray



How often are you aware of holding back, suppressing, minimising or lying about emotion? I know I do. How often might we find ourselves telling others to manage their emotions too? We say or hear minimising things like “just move on”, “don't cry” - does this sound familiar?

Emotion is a normal human function; it is our body’s internal messaging system. So, why do we override it and ignore it?


In this blog I want to shine a spotlight on our “emotional data”. I invite you to become more in tune with your emotions and use them to guide how you choose to show up in the different contexts of your life.


Humans have evolved to move away from things that harm us and cause us pain, this is brilliant when it is something like a moving car or an attack from a tiger but it's much less helpful when we apply this to the language we use and the emotions we feel.


When we spend too much time managing our emotions it takes a lot of our effort and energy, we divert much of our attention to ‘emotion management’ and less on doing the things in life that matter.


The thing is, it's not possible to have the things in life we really want without experiencing some emotional discomfort. Think of the early days as you approach something important such a romantic relationship, applying for promotion or training for a big event. How did you feel as this approached? It is not possible to move towards these important things without experiencing unpleasant emotions. This is indeed the human condition, and we can all relate to it. This emotional discomfort is indeed the price we pay for a life lived in line with our values and our reason why!


It’s important to notice and consider your feelings, usually when we tune into them we discover that they are trying to guide, protect or advise us, but because we are hard wired to our primitive brains we interpret these emotions as something to fear and we try and run from them. The invite here is to try something different. Don’t aim to get rid or avoid the emotion, consider using it as a useful piece of data that can inform how to choose to behave and consider it as a helpful thing.


One of my values is to be adventurous and to do things that challenge me. I love to climb mountains, but this does come with lots of negative thoughts “it will be hard” “I will not be able to do this” and I usually feel apprehensive, tense and anxious. I could simply not climb the mountain and just avoid it, that’s a choice, but is that how I want to live my life? No… I want the adventure. So, I climb the mountain with these feelings knowing that they care about me and want the best for me.


Through regularly using the mood check-in feature in the app, you will learn about different emotions and begin to observe how they feel in your body. We can start to notice how we respond to ourselves having these emotions and be curious about the impact this has in relation to our behaviour. We can begin to build a life around the things that matter most to us in life and spend less time trying to manage the emotions that will happen anyway.


About the author

Helen has more than 25 years of clinical experience as a nurse and a BABCP accredited psychological therapist. Her career in both NHS and private practice focuses on delivering evidenced based psychological treatments to adults. She is a valued member of various professional bodies and sits on the board for the UK&ROI association of contextual and behavioural science. As OK Positive’s Clinical director she is responsible for ensuring the efficacy and application of the psychological tools and learning journey’s available to the users through the app and for overseeing research opportunities with relevant partners.


Please visit her website for more information and follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.compasstherapy.co.uk/


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