Alternatives to emotions

Ever since the 1960s, most of us (old enough to remember) have been encouraged to express our emotions. To get them out into the open. To ‘let it all hang out’. Well, sure, as an antidote to the buttoned-down society we had back then, it was probably good advice. But is it still helpful? Has sharing your emotions done you much good lately? Is it time to reconsider that ‘hippy’ philosophy? Is there a new lesson we need to learn?

After all, most people have little idea what an emotion is, and what it’s for. Above all, they don’t stop to think where they come from. Most assume that emotions are all a case of ’cause and effect’. Something happens, you ‘feel’ something, right? You meet the love of your life, you fall in love, that sort of thing. Okay, let’s look at a practical example. You’re walking down the road and you stub your toe on a paving slab. You curse, you gasp, you limp away. But what are you feeling? Well, obvious, you say. You’re angry and you plan to sue the City Council or whoever else you can blame for your accident. You’re aggrieved, then? Also, you’re worried about being late for your appointment. Doesn’t that rather depend? If you’re hurrying on your way to the dentist, some delay, any diversion, might be welcome. But, hey, you’ve had an accident. Doesn’t that ruin your day? Well, maybe, but it might depend on whether it’s raining or not.

You see, there are all sorts of things that affect our emotions. The weather, for one. If it was a nice, sunny day, and you were on your way to something pleasant, like a lunch with a loved one, that stubbed toe might not be enough to break your mood. You might grimace, shrug your shoulders and move on. If it was raining, it might be a different story. If you’d forgotten your umbrella and were already feeling wet, the pavement trip might just be the ‘last straw’. Or another straw, at least. Suppose you paused, holding your damaged foot and a passing car swept up water from the gutter all over your shoes? That might make you feel even worse, and just about make you ready to call it a day and retreat home.

So, bad weather can affect our emotions. And the feeling we had when we set out. And thinking about what might be coming up next. Well, that’s a problem. If we stub our toe and start screaming, is that a ‘genuine’ emotion? Maybe right then, sure, but if we’d been feeling better, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. And if there were more important things to worry about – What if we were on our way to collect a Lottery cheque? Would we allow ourselves to get totally downhearted and cancel our trip? Not likely! The lure of money would get us there, limping, crawling or even in an ambulance. Either way, any way, we’d get there!

Oh yeah, you agree. No doubt. Winning the Lottery would cheer anyone up. Would it? If a man won a million dollars, that sounds like good news, right? What if he’d just been told that his child had a terrible disease and the full course of treatment would cost TWO million dollars? I know, I know, that’s an outlandish example, but be honest – haven’t you ever been sat in a bar with a friend telling you that ‘you’re lucky’ but somehow, at the same time, you feel like all the troubles of the world are resting on your shoulders? No, let’s face it, our emotions don’t just pop into our heads by ’cause and effect’. Some come out of nowhere, and many can’t be relied upon. Look, if you’re on top of a building and a howling wind is threatening to hurl you over the edge, you’re fully justified in feeling scared. That’s downright helpful. Maybe you’ll even ‘listen to your heart’ and keep away from the edge. But if your ‘inner voice’ is telling you to jump, or not to accept the next job offer, or move in with your new partner, or take the holiday you’ve been promising yourself, then some thing’s wrong. As the old saying goes, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Your subconscious is trying to tell you that there might be risks. They’re right. Now ignore it. Go ahead. Take the risk. You’ll be better off.

And listen to your friends. When they say how ‘lucky’ you are, there’s always the chance that they might be right. You got a good job, a nice house and a loving family, why the hell you feeling so bad? ‘It’s just the way I feel’, you whine. Check it out. You’re whining, that’s all, and that’s never an attractive characteristic. You need more than that ‘inner feeling’ to ensure that you’re living in the real world. Look around. If the sun is shining, then who knows? It might be that it really is a nice day.