Our Emotions as Survival Mechanisms

Abeer albashiti
5 min readDec 9, 2022

How are emotions created? Are they initiated from the mind or heart? Why is it subjective despite the similarity of humans’ physiological responses? Why do we sometimes regret when we act after emotional decisions? Are emotions essential to our growth, or are they funny, exciting elements of our lives? Are they valid all the time and during all interactions, or are they used in a particular context with the closest network?

These questions, among others, have energized me to start a journey of understanding, acknowledging, and embracing my emotions, feelings, and moods.

It was out of my comfort zone till my mid-twenties when rational decisions dictated the scene almost all the time. When I have a gut feeling about something, I rationalize it because it’s easier to comprehend evidence-based data and act objectively. Also, I perceived embracing emotions as a weakness and unprofessional behavior because I show vulnerability!!!

Fortunately, after studying emotional psychology research and its correlation with the autonomic nervous system responses like heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, and others, I realized why I was not interested in being emotional and acting accordingly; it may cause a mess if we are not aware.

And here is how I worked on that:

By differentiating between embracing our emotions and learning from them with awareness, i.e., being present when we feel something and asking ourselves why I am feeling this. Do I have a blocking belief? Do I have a mental bias about the situation? or does this emotion teach me about something or someone? Then connecting with my core values before action. And acting passively based on my feelings that are only sometimes relevant.

Embracing emotions as data, not directives, is a coachable skill that requires continuous investment, i.e., sometimes we succeed or mess up. And to measure that, I ask myself: Despite the context, do I act based on my core values? And do I resolve resulting issues when I mess up or move forward without considering others’ emotions or mine?

Figuring out the importance of emotions as a survival mechanism was eye-opening; our emotions motivate us to change and grow; they are a force of social justice, especially tough emotions like anger. Imagine you are disappointed; feeling angry and furious is normal, yet what you will do shows your core values and authentic self; you either communicate to understand and then act accordingly, or you react passively with similar behavior.

Similarly, when we feel loved and appreciated, we either take that for granted and behave rudely with people who care about us or share more loving vibes and respect. It’s all about who we are and what matters the most.

This means we have a choice about our emotional behavior; will we use them constructively and learn to grow, or destructively as directives where we are unconsciously passive?

One of the fantastic concepts that can support this process and has worked for me is Emotional agility, where expressing challenging and positive emotions with curiosity is key. Dr. Suzan David shared this in her research as a four-step process:

  • Acknowledging and understanding our emotions, i.e., labeling and accepting them, then going with the flow by experiencing them till they fade.
  • Detaching ourselves from our emotions, i.e., we are not our emotions; they do not identify us.
  • Connecting with our core values and acting according to our true selves.
  • Adding tiny tweaks routines to our life to speed up bouncing forward, i.e., journaling, swimming, sports, and reframing your expectations from yourself, others, and situations. Do not push yourself, others, or situations out of reality, i.e., having a fake hope.

The growth from embracing our emotions supports our survival; it’s the best communication method between ourselves and others. It helps identify soft borders during interactions so we do not clash with others or push ourselves too much by demanding unrealistic actions.

Another survival method in the workplace is Emotional professionalism, where we can express our emotions politely without hurting others, suppressing ourselves, or facking positivity. It’s an original communication method that I usually use, with the possibility of messing up sometimes!!!

Missing up while embracing or expressing our emotions is part of our human contract. What matters the most is whether we are doing this all the time, and are we considering others' emotions in the process, or are we self-centered, i.e., messing up and hurting others without feeling guilt or trying to resolve the issue?

And here, we shall foster emotional intelligence as an effective way of understanding our emotions and others, then supporting ourselves and the people around us in navigating their life experiences. Emotional intelligence is essential for living a meaningful life and having satisfying relationships.

Last but not least, I would love to share with you some suggestions that have worked for me when cultivating emotional agility, emotional professionalism, and emotional intelligence:

  • Accept all types of emotions and look into them as teachers.
  • Emotions are data, not directives so embrace them with ease.
  • Wise decisions combine intuitive feeling and rational data, so both are essential and should be considered when communicating.
  • Messing up while embracing our emotions is expected, so don’t feel bad; It’s part of our emotional growth.
  • Read research and books about emotional psychology, reflect on your life, and journal your emotions; you will notice a significant impact on your resilience threshold.
  • Let go of the attached emotions from bad experiences or interactions; you’ll be free and open to new opportunities.
  • Love and care about yourself and those who care about you; they are your social capital and encourage yourself to experience emotions with them. Life is more meaningful when we share it with beloved ones.

I wish you a spectacular life filled with coherence on all fronts.

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Abeer albashiti

YOU can consider me as an enabler who loves to connect with people and lives a life of service :)