"I'm Fine" and Other Obstructions to Emotional Health Share +

Posted by: coronadosafe 5 years, 6 months ago

By Dr. Monique Reynolds and Georgia Ferrell

If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, you get the take home message:  ALL of our emotions are important, not just the happy ones.  Though that may seem obvious, it’s easier said than done.   We cajole our kids to “be happy” when they’re feeling down.  We tense as we watch our children struggle with frustration.  Learning to live with these emotions is a habit we can develop and being aware of your emotions is the first step.

Emotions are necessary

On a very basic level, emotions help us survive.  Scientists have found that there are several basic emotions (See Brain Box) that are easily identified through facial expressions and body language.  In addition, there are several “moral” emotions that help us live as a social community, including shame, guilt, embarrassment and pride. 

In modern life, we are not often faced with primal dangers.  Being aware of our emotions allows us to make choices about our behavior, rather than reacting to instinctual urges.  Together with the reasoning part of our brain, we use these emotional clues to determine the best course of action in any situation. 


  • Emotions are tied to automatic physiological changes in the body including facial expressions, heart rate, pupil dilation, hormone activation and changes in sensory perception. 
  • The function of a basic emotion is to motivate us to action.   

Here are a few examples:

Fear prompts us to flee a danger.    

Happiness keeps us on our course of action.

Anger prepares us to fight a threat.  

Sadness signals a need for help and connection.

When the “I’m Fine” syndrome blows up

All too often, we ignore our emotions or convince ourselves that we shouldn’t feel this way.  Sometimes we overlook our emotions because we think they’re not important or we’re too busy.  We are “fine”, but just under the surface is all the resentment, grief, sadness and anger we’ve pushed aside.

Despite our best efforts to be “fine”, we have leaks.  Our anger and sadness leak to the surface in sharp tones and words.  Our body language shows something is wrong though we insist otherwise, creating confusion and distance with those we love.  And sometimes, when something goes wrong, the surface breaks and all the pain and anger become visible in very hurtful ways.  The price of emotional denial is enormous – marriages end, careers fail, relationships are destroyed, lives are lost... 

Take the challenge

In next month’s article, we will talk more about moments when things get overwhelming and how to accept our toughest emotions.  The first step in this process is being aware of what you feel.  Here are a few tips to practice emotional awareness:

  1. BUILD YOUR EMOTIONAL VOCABULARY:  Print out the Feelings Wheel from our website (www.coronadosafe.org) and practice being precise as you notice your emotion.

     2. BE AN OBSERVER:  Like a newspaper reporter, notice what you’re feeling without judging it or giving it extra      meaning – Just the Facts.  Naming the emotion can give it space to exist and reduce its intensity.  

For more tips on emotional awareness, visit us at www.coronadosafe.org.  And keep an eye out for our column next month as you build your Skills for Life.