Why are emotions important?

 "I feel therefore I am" (Greenberg, 2015).

Emotions are at the core of our human existence. They are our primary reference system by which we orient ourselves. Emotions inform us about ourselves and how we perceive ourselves in the world.

Emotions are the engine of our mental activity. They generate rapid and automatic action tendencies. These action tendencies direct our behavior toward or away from something. Emotions always manifest first at the somatic or visceral level (we have a gut feeling, our heartbeat changes, we cringe). This process often occurs without our conscious awareness. Sometimes our emotions influence our behavior, our thoughts, or our decisions without us even being aware of it.

«N’oublions pas, que les petites émotions sont les grands capitaines de notre vie et que nous leurs obéissons, sans le savoir» (van Gogh, 1988).

Evolution has provided us with an emotional response system that helps us strive and to survive. Without emotions, we couldn't survive. Without emotions, we would not grow. Without emotions, we would not bond either. Therefore, in Emotion-Focused Therapy, we view emotions as fundamentally adaptive and helpful, even if they are painful.

Emotions can give us good or bad information. They give us good information if the emotion we feel fits the situation (e.g., fear when there is danger, anger when we feel we have been treated unfairly, shame when we have done something wrong). Emotions that provide good information help us to satisfy our needs. Therefore, it is important to be aware of our emotions. Only then can we understand and use them.

However, emotions can also provide bad information (e.g., a fearful feeling of not being up to the world, a feeling of shame, of not being good enough or not being worthy of love). Such so-called "maladaptive emotions" are the consequence of negative learning experiences in childhood. They form the breeding ground for the development and maintenance of mental disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders). These are the maladaptive emotions that are accessed, processed and changed in Emotion -Focused Therapy.

"For many years you have talked about me. Behind my back. Over my head. Shouting at me.
At times you haven't even acknowledged my existence, and never have you really listened to me.

I want this to change.
I need you to be with me. Sit down with me, and take me seriously. Stay with me long enough for me to tell you about
my deepest longings and my heartfelt needs.

If you do, I will fuel your voice in the world with magic power and create human connections for you.
If you won’t, I will probably cause hell."

(Norwegisches Institut für Emotionsfokussierte Therapie)