The reality of emotions
Starting shortly after birth we are taught through trial and error what the impact of expressing our emotions is. We use this to get what we want and avoid what we don’t want on an instinctive level. Later on, we learn to explain why we feel how we feel and get a better rational insight into the long-term effect of our own emotions and those of others.
We learn to decide if we want to act upon our emotions and succeed in rationalizing away those harmful to us. Sometimes this choice is for a short while (you don’t punch someone far larger than you but are angry when you leave) But sometimes for far longer (you don’t insult your boss because you might lose your job).
This rational superpower helps us to be social beings, with bonds not broken on a whim. And perhaps more important: the rational filter helps us greatly to survive our modern-day dangers.
Most people have had that first encounter with someone that immediately rubs you the wrong way. They haven’t done anything wrong (yet) and they seem nice and all, but it’s hard to get rid of that gut feeling. A common example of how your rational and Primal Being can clash. But how do you decide how to respond? Give that person the benefit of the doubt? Avoid them for no rational reason? And how much of that depends on the setting and the people around you? Or even previous experiences. If you're alone in a dark alley the choice may be very simple, but what if your best friend introduces you? Or this person is your new boss?
With all the variables it is hard to regularly act upon these signs your Primal Being gives: emotions. Most of us grow so accustomed to choosing rational that these signs are almost automatically ignored.
Simply ignoring them doesn’t make them disappear. Making the rational choice to not act upon your feelings at the moment doesn’t invalidate or remove the emotion. Fear for spiders is often irrational, illogical, and unwanted, still, an estimated 5% of the world's population has a crippling fear for them. Is that fear any less real if they manage to control themselves?
With our human brain control in place, we tend to forget one important thing. Regardless of the irrationality, illogical sources, or their unwanted effects:
Your emotions are real to you!
Emotions need no reason, they need no explanation. You choose your way and they only try to tell you what is happening. They are there to help you understand the world.
How do we choose our reaction?
There are four ways we respond to emotions.
- We feel them and act upon them
- We decide to ignore them for that moment
- Instinctive response
- We react according to our habit
The first two are easily recognizable. We allow ourselves to feel everything and follow where the emotion takes us or we decide this is not the moment to allow ourselves to go there. There are many pros and cons to either style depending on the details. However, most of us have found a general system to work with our low impact emotions choosing between these two.
Other times we are overwhelmed by extreme emotions and get no conscious choice on how to handle it.
Our Primal Being overrides our entire system to handle the situation immediately. These responses are generally known as Fight or Flight. (now also including Freeze and Tend) Seeing most people already recognize these we will keep this short. There is far more to discuss about this path than fits in this blog and we will most certainly attend to that at a later moment.
Bringing us to the last option: reacting out of habit. During our early childhood, we already start building ways to manage our response to our surroundings. We learn if getting angry gives us our way or if it is better to not stand up for ourselves against our surroundings to avoid punishment. We keep learning these lessons our entire life. Regardless of the rational reasons, when we keep making the same decision in a situation over and over a habit forms. Response to emotions follows the same path and before long we respond to the same situation the exact same way every time.
More often than not this habitual response brings trouble with it because the choice happens subconsciously. Out of habit you step back from confrontation or go at someone's throat when they stand up to you. How often do you keep repeating a confrontation in your head thinking about what you should have said or done? Or how often do you regret getting angry? By responding immediately and without thinking we don’t actually feel what is happening and if our response is the one we want to give in these circumstances. This shows the biggest problem with this habitual choice: we can’t deal with emotions we are not completely aware of, especially if we ignore them.
When we choose (consciously, instinctively, or habitually) to ignore emotions our Primal Being doesn’t care about the reasons. The emotions stay until they are dealt with. When looking at trauma we can see the devastating effect of a single major emotional event that isn’t dealt with yet. Stress, aggression, throwbacks, and if they happen early in life they may even affect your complete personality.
Although harder to measure and pinpoint the same is true for smaller emotional events when they start to build up. Being brought up in an unsafe environment, working in a job where you are treated like dirt, or even being spoiled beyond belief to keep you quiet leave their mark on the body. Stress is just the first of many physical responses. Allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, irritated bowel syndrome, heart diseases, dementia, and many more have been connected to a high build up of unresolved emotions and/or trauma. Finding these hidden emotions, dealing with them, and even changing your habits is one of the hardest things to do. But a necessity for a live in tune with your true core.
In our previous blogs, we already discussed ways to connect to these signs. (find the blog here) In future blogs, we will give more ideas on how to make it work for you. For now, it is important to realize that the reality of emotions is that they are real and you will need to deal with them, or they will consume you over time.