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Cover emotions vs. comfort emotions

Emotions … the “feels … the stuff that sometimes we avoid (when we don’t want to feel it) and sometimes we embrace (when we love the feeling).

I love talking about thoughts and feelings, because truly that’s what makes up our life experience.

Within the world of emotion, there are cover emotions. Cover emotions are the ones we “work” at feeling, or “put on” in order to cover what we’re truly feeling. We use cover emotions to ignore what we’re truly feeling.

The other day, I caught myself feeling very self-righteous about a decision I had made. I was thinking things like, “I’m so accommodating. I was so flexible in making this decision. I take everyone’s needs into account and don’t just stick to what I want no matter what.” I was feeling pretty self-righteous. And then when I saw the negative effects of the decision I had made, I realized I was using self-righteous as a cover emotion.

Truly, deep down, the emotion I was experiencing was guilt. Because I felt that I had made a decision that was good for me, but not good for the other people involved in the decision. I wanted it to be good for them. But it wasn’t. I was avoiding acknowledging my guilt by covering it up with self-righteousness.

Cover emotions are fascinating. They show us our work. They’re an invitation to dig deeper into what we’re TRULY feeling. To not stop at the surface.

And then there are comfort emotions. Those are like our go-to emotions. They feel cozy. Familiar. For each of us it’s different. What’s familiar to you?

Guilt. Worry. Overwhelm. Confusion. Nervous. Anxious. These are common comfort emotions. Of course, we could also have familiar emotions that are positive: love, joy, gratitude, perhaps.

But here’s the trick: if you’re willing to experience ALL emotion, THAT is the key to getting wherever you want. The only way out is through, and so if you want to get to the OTHER side of a negative emotion, you have to go THROUGH it first. And in order to go THROUGH a negative emotion, you have to be willing to feel discomfort.

So comfort emotions—watch out for them. Check in on them. Check in on whether staying in that emotion because it’s comfortable is serving you. Or is it keeping you from getting to the other side of your dreams, to where you want to go in life?


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