Meaning is often thought of as a mental construct, as thinking. Yet, there is so much more to “meaning” than meets the eye. Concepts such as meaning and purpose might come across quite abstract and heady, disconnect from life.
Imagine a moment of great significance for you. Perhaps you are witnessing the birth of your child or looking at a great view that takes your breath away. Remember the feeling of being in love or meeting your loved one for the first time. There is a magical, almost an otherworldly quality to these moments that cannot be easily described. It’s as if our whole being comes alive and participates in what’s happening around us. In these moments, we know we are feeling something deep.
When meaning and purpose are felt instead of merely thought about, we could say we feel inspired by something or made to feel more alive. Inspiration, aliveness, a sense of deep significance, and even sacredness can pervade us in such moments.
When something is felt deeply, we have no doubt about it anymore. Doubt belongs to mind and thinking. Felt experience of significance, importance, and meaning reveal a knowing that gets registered in more than our mind. This is a whole-body experience.
In my work with clients, I’ve seen again and again how they get in touch with their core, authentic self through feeling into their emotions. Once they become more embodied and emotionally connected to themselves, it seems they immediately know (and know with their whole being) what truly matters to them.
We could say emotion is the gateway to meaning and purpose.
By this, I’m not talking about dramatizing and getting lost in our emotions. I’m talking about being in touch with them. But what does this even mean and how does this work?
Let’s begin by looking at emotions and how they connect with our core values. This is where we are no longer only thinking about who we are, but we get to feel who we are through and through.
Take anger. Let’s talk about the kind of anger that fuels our passion and that motivates us, the kind of anger that is but a protective energy in the service of what matters to us.
Ask yourself what makes you angry, deeply and genuinely angry and you will find a core value of yours that means a lot to you. If you get angry when people lie to you, there you have it: You value honesty. Odds are you also do your best to be honest because that’s part of who you are. Would a dishonest relationship be meaningful for you or a job that requires you to lie to your clients? No chance.
By understanding your anger better, you just understood who you are and what you value. When we live in line with what we value, our lives become more meaningful.
Let’s explore one more emotion in this way. Shame.
Imagine the kind of shame that is healthy regret and remorse. When do you feel this emotion? Chances are, you feel it when you’ve hurt someone you care about. Perhaps you yelled at your partner or family member and you know you hurt them. Once you feel your healthy shame, you are connected again with what matters to you: Being kind to those you care about. You just discovered another core value: Kindness.
When you live in line with this core value, you are going to experience more meaning in your life. Getting to know our emotions is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and for those we love.
Through feeling, we connect with meaning.