Did you know that the Human Emotional System has three channels it can use to communicate with you?
So, the Human Emotional System is your messaging system. Your internal GPS, if you will. It is talking with you all the time. It is letting you know which way to go, what you want, what you need, what you should avoid.
Even if you don’t have easy access to one, there are different ways to get the same message. That’s the beauty with having three different channels.
Think about the different ways you can watch your favorite show: on your TV, phone or computer. Maybe you don’t have a TV in your room, but you want to lay in bed and watch your show. So you choose your phone because you don’t want to accidentally fall asleep with your computer in your bed. Same thing with the ways you can access the internal world. Sometimes one channel will work better than the others. We can talk more about this another time. But for now, let’s talk about these channels.
Here are the 3 channels:
1. Your body (feelings): Your feelings first show up in sensations in your body. Literally, that is the most reliable and earliest indicator. Think about getting butterflies in your stomach when you are nervous. Those are your feelings showing up as a sensation in your body. You get sensations in your body for most of your emotions, you just might not be trained to look out for them. Check out this blog post to find out more.
2. Your thoughts: You know that little voice in your head? The one who doesn’t stop talking? Those are your thoughts. Your thoughts can tell you about what is going on inside. Just a warning: your thoughts can be sneaky. Sometimes they are not always super accurate if you take them at face value. It doesn’t mean you can’t trust your thoughts as an accurate source, you just have to check them to make sure they are true and helpful before you take them as wisdom from within.
3. Your behaviors (actions): This is the most obvious and concrete of all the channels. Because it can be *seen*. It is concrete and observable. Did you notice that you start biting your nails when you are looking at your checking account online? Maybe it is making you nervous? Did you notice how you start sighing in traffic? Maybe you are getting impatient?
See what I mean?
So, why should you care about the messages coming through?
They are designed to get your attention. That’s why you have emotions. So you have some kind of guidance system to help you navigate what is best for YOU. It’s true, some guidance is more important that other guidance. But on the big stuff, you want to get that message sooner rather than later.
Otherwise, the volume is going to get turned up on you.
Let’s talk about an example.
If you feel angry because you don’t have time to help your neighbor, but you are doing it anyway because you are not listening to your signals or you don’t know how to say no, don’t be surprised if your anger finds its way out unexpectedly. Maybe it shows up in a snarky comment, rushing to your car after helping them and driving recklessly, spilling your coffee, or feeling like your day is off on the wrong foot.
The pressure rising in your chest (channel: body) when your neighbor asked for a favor was trying to let you know that it is not OK with you to spend your time helping your neighbor in that moment. That thought “I don’t have time for this right now” (channel: thought) was trying to let you know that this is not the right time. That forced smile and curt response when your neighbor kept talking and you had to go (channel: action) was trying to get your attention.
When we catch these signals and know what they mean, we have the opportunity to say: “You know what, Pete, you know I usually would. And I can’t right now. I have an important presentation this morning and I’m running a little late. Can I help you when I get back?”
Obviously, this is a benign example. But notice how listening to the signals results in taking care of you (your day isn’t getting derailed by angry trying to get your attention). And, it is taking care of your relationship with your neighbor, Pete, by being able to have a genuine, caring interaction rather than a forced, irritated one.