Our communication has a direct and powerful effect upon our emotions. One way to change a mood is to talk to someone else. Even if they don’t say anything to us, the feeling of being heard has a potent effect upon us. It can help to put things in perspective, to give us more of a sense that our emotions are manageable.
When the emotions that we express are positive ones, they can become much stronger through the act of communicating. I guess that everyone has had the experience of thinking about saying something, and then finding that when you try to say it, you have difficulty in getting the words out because of the power of the emotions welling up into your throat. It seems that in communicating, we often get more in touch with our emotions.
Communicating with ourselves has a lesser, but still useful, effect on our emotional states. Many people use writing in a journal to help them manage their emotional states. Writing can help us to untangle our experience so that we can begin to make more sense of what’s going on in our emotional life.
Communication that alters our emotions need not be verbal. Non verbal communication – a reassuring touch, a hug, holding hands – can have an enormous effect on how we feel.
In the metta bhavana practice, we imagine that we are communicating with others, and we do actually communicate with ourselves. We call others to mind, those we like, those we have difficulties with, and those that we are indifferent to, and we wish them well. We may find ourselves communicating to a friend exactly what it is that we appreciate about them. We may call to mind someone we’re in conflict with and imagine apologizing to them. We might even imagine non-verbal communication as well.
This may seem very similar to the category of using thoughts to change our emotions, but I feel that communication is such an important part of being human that it’s worth singling it out, and also thought is inherently an inner phenomenon, while communication goes beyond this. It can have an inner aspect that starts in thought, but by definition it involves reaching out to others and letting them into our hearts and minds as well.