By: Max Bruns ~Advertisement Manager~
So much of our time is spent in a state of automatic emotional reaction. An unexpected event occurs and our day is thrown off. Our brain chemistry is defaulted to panic, or anger, or sadness and the baseline emotions dip below to a dark place.
Your teacher hands back a C instead of an A, and you want to collapse from exhausted grief because you spent seven hours on that paper. Here’s the thing, though: I can’t tell you how to feel, and neither can that paper.
In fact, you can’t even tell yourself how to feel. If “Inside Out” taught me anything, feelings will (hopefully) occur as your humanity develops. However, it’s what you do with your feelings that makes all the difference.
When we learn how to nuance our emotions, we better understand our truest feelings. It’s easy to get caught up in surface level emotions; anger if you fail a test, pain as you stub a toe; but baseline emotions are not productive.
Anger itself isn’t productive. Sadness perpetuates sadness. Joy can’t last forever. It may seem alien to talk about emotions as producers, but that is exactly what they are. An emotion produces a reaction in you, and if you can’t get a handle on the nuance of your emotions, you can spend a lot of time producing reactions that are futile, unproductive and a genuine waste of your time.
The key is the analysis of how you are feeling. When something happens to you, start by taking a deep breath. Let the air around you invade every empty space you have inside and focus on nothing else except that air. As you release it slowly, ask yourself: How am I really feeling? Is it anger, or is it rage or annoyance?
After you’ve identified the key emotion, think about what your initial reaction might have been. Let’s say that a friend calls you and cancels a lunch that you’ve had planned for three weeks as you are on the way to the restaurant. HULK ANGRY, HULK SMASH, you think to yourself, and you throw the phone out the car window.
Now, rewind and pretend like you’ve taken your deep breath and asked yourself, how am I really feeling? You’ve identified your emotion as annoyance. OK, we can work with annoyance. What do we do when we’re annoyed? We text the friend and say something like, “I understand that you’re busy, but I set this time aside because I haven’t seen you in a while. Next time I would appreciate it if you would give me more of a heads up before cancelling.” Your annoyance will fizzle, and you’ll feel full of resolution.
As a kid, I was often confused as to why the Catholic Church teaches that anger is one of the seven deadly sins. But the truth is that the Catholic Church teaches that wrath is one of the seven deadly sins. Wrath is a much more nuanced form of anger, and it’s one of the least productive ones if it leads to violence. Annoyance is also a nuanced form of anger, and it can also be unproductive if it’s not channeled by maturity.
The next step after analyzing the nuance of your emotion is to move to the mature solution. Texting back, “Hey assh***, thanks for the heads up,” will only make the friend upset. If you can achieve a peaceful state of mind, I almost guarantee you will feel more productive afterward.
The idea behind channeling your emotional reactions is that a state of mind that is peaceful and eternally grateful, is a state of mind that many people wish to achieve. It’s wrapped up in a world view that equates emotional zen with true wealth, so maybe my point of view is antithetical to what you believe is the point of life in the first place.
All I’m saying is no matter what you believe about life, it’ll probably be easier to achieve if you aren’t walking around in a storm of negative emotion all the time. So next time you want to send that angry email, or throw yourself on the floor out of grief, ask yourself, is there a better way to react to my emotions right now? The answer will most likely be yes.
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