We humans, even those who think they’ve transcended that status, are emotional creatures. The emotional lives of our fellow life-inmates are as powerful as they are ubiquitous. We revel in the tearful confessions and get angry when there aren’t enough tears; we read romance novel fluff and escape into the distorted lives of people we’d find disgusting were we to meet them in person and we turn on daily to the constant stream of “real life” portrayals of drama and chaos found on everything from docudramas to the truly fake reality shows. Throughout it all we are so constantly bombarded by emotional data that it’s amazing any of us are capable of moving around or thinking clearly.
In the movie “What The Bleep Do We Know?” there is a scene when the central character is dancing and having a crazy good time at a wedding with cartoons overlaying the shot indicating how she’s holding onto the IV line of her emotions which are flooding into her with every movement and touch, the emotions scampering about like squirrels on crack. I have yet to find a more potent portrayal of our emotional lives and how they overwhelm our systems with the sheer high of feeling, no matter what that feeling may be. Showcasing emotions as if they were drugs should give us pause when getting down on ourselves when we’re not feeling what we’re “supposed” to be or what “we want to be.”
Imagine for a moment a ball bobbing upon water held in a box with plenty of room between it and the top. Peaceful, serene, the ball just sits there, slowly moving as it floats upon the water. Then hook up a hose to the box and start shooting in more water from below. The ball starts roiling around, bouncing off the walls, all sense of equilibrium gone and any sense of calm destroyed. Were someone to be located inside that ball, there’d be little in the way of knowing what was up from down and certainly no way to form coherent thoughts.
Welcome to your emotional life, these are the emotions you are looking for. This is our reality. The ball could not move without the water being there and neither could we, emotions serve as the impetus for all actions and are the guiding force behind all thought (thus destroying the supposed clear distinction between emotions and thinking). When overwhelmed with sheer force the ball has little input as to where it’s going to go or what it’s going to do, it’s just along for the ride and thus so are we when strong reactions occur. Once the turbulence calms down or begins to the ball may find itself underwater still for a moment even if there’s nothing more being done and will take a moment to rise to the surface; so it is when we find ourselves in those moments of self-doubt or feeling “underwater” or “over-exposed” after an especially difficult or otherwise emotionally-laden response.
We are not the disparate clumps of mass we sometimes feel we are, isolated and alone, separated from humanity, nor are we wholly without tools to shape, albeit in small ways, the relational interactions we have as we live our lives. Responsibility does not mean ignoring the power of our emotional lives any more than it means self-flagellation every time we bob to the surface and realize what we’ve done isn’t in our so-called best interests. There was an interest reached in every feeling, there was and is a point to every reaction. We are not isolated creatures and reality is constant relational interaction with everything, fueled and pushed along by the energy/information flow that is often bubbling up from beneath and outside of our awareness until we find ourselves shaken about.
Nothing we do, however much we deny it, is without purpose or intent. Responsibility and ethics start in the recognition of and determination to begin expanding our conscious lives and through concentration/focus begin funneling that energy/information down more healthy tracks. We do ourselves a disservice for drawing our meaning only from the after-effects of our emotional responses. The reactions themselves are an indelible part of our lives as well and they are the reason, from the small to the huge, for why we do what we do.
Embracing the whole of our existence will give us the freedom to cut ourselves some slack and perhaps put some sails on that bobbing ball.