Sunday, March 14, 2010

So. Emotions...what are those about, eh?

Emotions are crazy things, aren't they? Ups. Downs. Emotions we're extremely familiar with...ones that we don't recognize. What are we supposed to do with them?

Our bodies are genetically programed to respond to our emotions in order to keep us safe. A twinge of fear can cause a rush of adrenaline which allows us to do things that we may not be able to do under normal circumstances (run faster, lift heavier things) and some people believe that it goes even deeper than that. Here's an article about a woman who does an experiment with her blood and a microscope.

She finds that her blood really does look different as she induces strong emotions with a sort of sentimental meditation. What is even more interesting, is that the blood continues to shape-shift according to emotions once it's outside of the body. I wonder, along those lines, if other people's blood could actually shift according to another's strong feelings. I would assume more research is needed in this budding field. Actually, I think it's mostly crap, but it's pretty entertaining.

With all of that in mind, I want to know what the repercussions are of trying to artificially control our emotions. I, myself, enjoy feeling my full range of emotions. While I'm not one that people would describe as "stoic," my highs and lows fall in what I consider to be a very normal range. As badly as I hurt when I'm at the bottom of a down, I would much rather feel that than numb away any other part of the roller coaster. I acknowledge that it's my own personal preference for the dichotomy of living (I'd rather be sad than apathetic, have a bad day than a boring day, have a nightmare than no dream at all) which drives my decisions to ride out the hard times. Others may not share those preferences and they may experience swings of emotion that are far more wild than mine. So what is the consequence for the body when you admonish the natural feelings? Does it help you stay physically healthier to shave the stress and sadness in your life or could it possibly stop you from learning lessons that could keep you from getting hurt in the future? A caveman on Xanax, for example, may not flee the sabertooth tiger.

So this may be starting to sound like I'm against covering up our emotions, because I believe that we need to feel them in order to learn something. Maybe. The truth is, though, that I think it's very important to learn to control our emotions. I just happen to personally prefer controlling them on my own. When I was younger, I was very dramatic. I know, you're SHOCKED, aren't you? A woman with creative flair, purple hair and savoir-faire...whoda thunk? As a teenager, I would cry at the drop of a hat. It took almost nothing to shake me to my core. Life has a funny way of slapping us out of that. For me, it was a sadistic boss when I lived in Seattle.

In my early twenties, I had a boss that loved to make the women cry. It was a game for him and I swear he tried to improve his time each round. Whenever he would call one of us in to the office, the others would all feel so bad for her and some kind of group lunch was sure to follow. I'll relate one such instance of my own.

I am a good employee. I'm good at what I do and I hate to let anyone down. The first time Mr. Bossman (obviously a fake name, but hey, no one really cares who he is) called me in to his office, I thought it was just a routine check-in. He sat me at his desk and started to ask me questions about my personal life. He watched my face and when he would touch on something that was obviously sore for me, he would pry a little further. Being the innocent and emotional girl that I was, I didn't suspect his motivations. He asked me about my failures, about my family and about my future. He told me that if I didn't become more firm with my coworkers I wouldn't succeed in the company. He then started talking about what I would be like as a mom. Even though I didn't have kids at the time, motherhood was one of the most precious goals in the world to me. I wanted to emulate my own fabulous mother and having him tell me his opinion on how my kids would turn out was torturous. I started to mist-up and he belittled me. He told me to wipe off the doe-eyed sadness and get out of his office. But I had given him the fuel he needed for the future. From then on, whenever he wanted or needed something from me, all he had to do was call me in his office and focus on the weak spot. Working there was horrible, but it taught me to keep closer control of my emotions, because you never know how someone will use them against you.

Nothing highlights that concept more than a divorce. By the time I was done with my marriage, I was pretty sure that I was done with loose emotions too. Those renegade butterflies that take over your insides are only good for giving others weaknesses to exploit. For that reason (and a couple of others) I chose to limit my dating habits to one night only. For a while after my divorce, I had rules and guidelines and so many other crutches that I was positive that I would never let another ninja butterfly attack me. That is, until Patrick came along.

After my very first date with Patrick, I started to question all of the safeguards that I had put in place for myself. I kind of wanted a second date. I wanted to feel the tingles and I wanted to let him in. I just didn't want to tell *him* that. In fact, the one thing I still hold on to is the fear that sharing the true depth of my feelings will just provide ammunition for something unforeseen in the future. I'm convinced that without my former boss, Andre, I would still be hiding my love. Hearing the way I talked about "Colorado Guy," Andre would ask me why I don't just put myself out there. For conversation after conversation, I tried to convince him that if I could just control my emotions, it would be best for everyone. And each time, he worked a little harder to try to make me see that if I didn't open myself up to acknowledging what I was feeling, it would eat me up and wouldn't have a chance at finding the love that I deserve.

In a Hollywood production, those conversations would have been all that I needed. But really, it took all of those talks, visiting Patrick in Colorado, seeing him with the boys, then talking to my cousin who asked, "And how would you feel if he started seeing someone else tomorrow?" before I realized that whether my emotions are on display or not, I am equally vulnerable. What is worse is that if I didn't share what I was feeling, the possibility of getting hurt was even higher.

Alright. Now that I've showcased my talent for making a long story longer, let's get back to drugs. I want to know what you all think. Is there any difference between stifling your emotions with self-suppression vs. medication? Do you personally prefer one method over another? To what extent should one try to control their own emotional state? What good comes from feeling, besides feeling good? Please comment.

1 comment:

Jimmy said...

On my way home from my mom's yesterday, I listened to a short story that relates to this, called "A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness"