- Mental Health
Understanding Human Emotions: Dispelling The Negative And The Positive
Understanding Human Emotion
Today, we live in an ever growing sensitized world where people often seem to be confused as to what is basic human emotion. We're taught to be overly politically correct, because if we’re not we just may hurt somebody's feelings. We're taught that proper business etiquette is "the customer is always right," because we can't risk being honest, we just may hurt somebody's feelings and lose business. We're taught that certain emotions are "improper" and need to be treated with medication. We seem to have no problem with violence however, because that's just action. When you kill somebody, their feelings can't get hurt. With such a tightly "managed" society, it's understandable why people have lost touch with their emotions. So how do we grasp a better understanding of emotion amongst this mist of confusion? We can start by dispelling some of the myths perpetuated by leading members of society and their organizations regarding human emotion.
Your Emotions Are Overrated
One of the biggest myths going is that we should heed close attention to our emotions. We're told that our emotions are everything and to be respected. While I agree it's important to pay attention to your emotions, I'm here to tell you emotions are overrated. Emotions are often a reaction to an event that has just transpired. It isn't the emotion that is so powerful. It’s your actions or the action of those around you where the true power rests. Emotions are essentially just some residues to action and/or circumstance.
There Are No Positive And Negative Emotions
The "science" behind mental health would have you believe there are "positive" and "negative" emotions. This is quite simply a scam. Emotions are not a battery or a pressure gauge. Many people analyze their emotional state considering where they stand on the "positive" and "negative" emotional gauge. However, none of this takes into consideration your circumstances or whether certain emotions are appropriate in given situations.
We tend to think emotions such as sadness, being critical, and anger are negative. Immediately people dismiss persons who exhibit such emotions for being "too negative."
On the flip side, we tend to see emotions such as happiness, joy, and optimism as positive. Immediately people flock to persons who exhibit such emotions in the belief "they're positive."
To quote a certain scene on the Matrix, I'm here to tell you there is no spoon. Our emotions are but a mere compass to guide us along the journey that is life. Think of your emotions as nothing more than an instrument, a companion if you will, to help you navigate the high seas. When you're sad, that's a good thing, your emotional compass is telling you something. Do not be a fool and easily dismiss such feelings as "too negative." No human progress has ever been made by the people you typically see as optimists. Think about it, if they're happy with everything, then there is no incentive for them to change. Progress can only come through change. The feeling of sadness could be telling you several things. It could be telling you what you're currently doing is hurting you, and that you should stop. The feeling of sadness could be telling you that you miss someone, and that you need to see them immediately. The feeling of sadness could be a warning you that you're lonely, and you need to go out and meet people. The feeling of sadness could be serving as an alarm bell that you're in an environment with people set out to sabotage you and see you fail. What a helpful emotion the feeling of sadness can be . . . So why are you listening to the garbage taught on TV such as "The Secret"? Why are you attempting to medicate sadness away by the help of your doctor? This is no way to treat such an honest and helpful friend. It's the actions and circumstances that are the problem, not the sadness. Your sadness can be a useful tool toward finding a solution.
Anger is another wonderful emotion people unfortunately dismiss as "bad," "negative," and at times "evil." In the soul of every good man is an angry wild man buried deep inside. Why? That is because anger is a necessary component for justice. Justice cannot exist without anger, and anger cannot exist without justice. As for me, I'm taking off my kid gloves, and I'll admit I'm angry over many issues. I'm angry over the Israeli/Palestinian issue, mostly angry at the Israeli side. Why? That is because they're a terrorist state supporting the brutal and illegal occupation of an entire people upon generations. I'm angry because they of all people should know better. I'm angry that my government supports such a heinous cause. There is no excuse for such behaviour and their actions are indefensible. I'm angry that housing prices have become vastly unfordable for my generation in part due to the greed of my parents’ generation. I'm angry over the diminished living standards. I'm angry that those who produce nothing become wealthy, while those who produce everything such as scientists, artisans, and artists are poor. The fact that the wealth disparity is so huge further exasperates the situation. I'm angry over all the ongoing looting of intellectual property done by corporations. I'm angry how the education system suppresses freedom of speech. Sure the university may claim to be the land of intellectual prowess and critical thinking, however experience has shown me that what the system truly values is "controlled free speech." I may be allowed to speak against the status-quo, but I'll be required to write another paper playing devil's advocate against myself explaining and emphasizing with "the other side." This is all done in an attempt to make the situation 50/50 (when often it's not 50/50) or in the name of "neutral diplomacy." On the other hand, people who do advocate and simply parrot the status quo don't need to write another paper based upon my views. They essentially copy & paste their way to the very top, with a lot less work than I'll ever have to do if I wish to keep my personality and stay sane. I'm angry that the university degree industry has essentially created a caste system in our society. I’m angry over all the rampant eugenics creeping up throughout world societies. Now I ask you, is there anything evil with being angry over these issues? My anger is a compass and my guide. My anger is pointing me to lapses in how society is functioning. If I didn't have anger, I wouldn't be self-aware of these prevailing issues. If I'm unaware, then I go in blindly, it would be impossible for any progress to be achieved without knowing where to aim.
And last but not least, let's look at happiness. Surely we all want happiness, right? We're told that the pursuit of happiness is the ultimate goal, everything else is secondary, as long as you're happy, you're successful. Using that logic, I guess a drug addict intoxicated with a 24/7 sexual hallucination is the most successful person around. By falling in line and stereotyping emotions as either "negative" or "positive," we risk missing out on opportunities to better ourselves, or even worse, get deceived into situations that will destroy us. Emotions don't discriminate. No emotions are good or bad. Our emotions are but a mere reflection of our actions and circumstances. There are good/bad actions and circumstances, but our emotions truly are at the mercy of our actions and circumstances. If we want people to be happy, then they truly must have reasons to be happy.
Can You Control Your Emotions?
You can suppress your emotions, but you can't control your emotions, and it wouldn’t be desirable if you could. Your emotions, for the most part, are out of your control. As I explained earlier, it's actions and/or circumstances that create emotion, not the other way around. By the time you have an emotional response, it's already too late, that is the residue to a certain action you may have taken. What we can do is control our actions to help us reach a more desirable emotional state, but that is truly the only power individuals have over themselves. I know, it can be shocking to learn in a culture that preaches rugged individualism to learn how little power the individual has at his/her disposal, but that's reality. We can't control other people, we often can't control our circumstance and environment, and we can't even control our own emotions (although we can suppress emotions). All we have power over is what we decide to do day to day . . .
Emotions: Guiding A Person To Thoughtfulness
Now, some of you are probably asking why all I have written so far seems to fly in contradiction to what I wrote about earlier. One of my main grievances is that people are too sensitive and too easily get offended. The previous paragraph seems to be advocating if you have to cry, then cry. To that end, I'll say that the crying would not need happening had actions and circumstances were taken into consideration. People put too much attention on the emotion, and not the cause. One of the biggest complaints I hear from people (especially women) is how their boss doesn't care about their feelings. My counter argument to that is had the boss ran a business professionally, competently, and realistically, your feelings should never become an issue. The feelings are but a mere reaction to a hostile situation, remove the hostile situation, and such feelings should cease.
Another issue is that while people hand too much credit to their emotions, they hand even greater credit to the false negative/positive emotional paradigm. Just because someone says something that may upset you, anger you, or bring you sadness, doesn't make them your enemy or "too negative." If you understand that emotions are indeed the compass of life to help guide you, the next time someone makes you angry, take a deep breath and ask yourself if there is something important your mind is trying to tell you. Who knows, after just a few minutes of thought, you may actually thank the person who originally made you angry.
-Donovan D. Westhaver
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