On emotions and connection

(This post has been waiting in the drafts for some time. Time has come to clean it up and send it out to the big world.)

It seems to me that we have a lot of misunderstandings in our culture when it comes to emotions. Surely, it is not the only topic where we feel lost in, but maybe I just notice it more when compared to people from other cultures (cold and slow as we are ... supposedly).

The big problem with emotions is that we attend to them as if they are permanent - which in my opinion is a big mistake. 

Who has not heard about everlasting love? Sounds too good to be true, right? I'm not saying that it is impossible, merely pointing out the obvious that even when you have loved someone for years, the emotion has changed over time and possibly at some point you have even been deeply frustrated or annoyed with this person. Everyone in a long term relationship (even with your family and friends) knows that no emotion is permanent nor constant and sometimes or dearest ones piss us off the most. Does that mean that we don't love them? No, but it does not fit in with the concept of everlasting love, does it?

Emotions as Reactions to reality

Look at small kids. Even a year old can laugh and cry and be surprised or scared. However these emotions often last only for a moment (or entire 4 hours car-ride ... and it is usually not the laughing we get there) and after that, something else takes the attention. They are in a way fluid and natural reactions to inner (I want food!) and outer (what is this sound?) impulses.

A cool thing to notice is that if another impulse comes in, the previous one is often forgotten. If the kid starts crying, you can bring his attention to something else - maybe do strange noses - and he might bring his attention to that (this is how parents survive). 

I think it makes sense if you look at it from survival perspective: you might be hungry, but if there is a strange sound, maybe someone else is hungry as well and it would be smart to be aware of it before you get eaten. You can fill your stomach a bit later but the threat might be imminent.

We don't lose these natural reactions to impulses. The reaction just changes as we grow up. Some people get grumpy when get are hungry others just make a sandwich.

The aim of these emotions is to bring our attention to relevant topics (food, survival, etc) and as soon as this kind of need is satisfied, the emotion is done - there is no need for it anymore. It might take sometimes more time, but still, there is a solution coming. However, sometimes if the solution does not come fast enough, the kids go mad. Have you seen a kid crying as if berserk and nothing that you do helps? As if they have already crossed the red line and cannot come back. They still need a resolution, but the emotion is just so big already that they have to let it out. Still, it will never last forever (all though it might feel like that at a time when you are a parent).

We understand it with small kinds, but not with older ones. I think that the same thing is happening when the kid is already older and yells "I hate you!" at his parents while they are in a supermarket (kids seem to prefer supermarkets for this... don't know why). Emotions are overflowing and it is only a temporary thing. Saying that this is not a nice thing to say to your parents will not help either as this is the truth at that moment.

I'm not saying that you should let your kids go wild, all I am saying is that the words seem to shock us. Would the kid just cry out like a toddler, we would understand just as well that he is sad and mad. However as soon as he says that he hates us, we take it to the heart - isn't hate an emotion and emotions last forever? How dare you to hate us after all the love we have given you? How dare you say something like this?

This brings us to the next topic.

Emotions as reactions to thoughts

Remember that I said that you cannot have everlasting emotions? I lied. You can, but these are called chronic not everlasting. These are not caused by the reality but our interpretation of the reality and often we just see what we want to see. As we translate every real event to a format that we expect and want to see, we are feeding ourselves constantly with the same impulse and have the same reaction all the time. This is more-less how depression works and that is not a emotion, that is a illness.

Humans are complex beings and at some point we develop the tools to create the emotions of our own - out from thin air. We think about a positive experience and we get all warn and good. We think about a negative one and we clench our fists and turn angry. This is a two bladed sword. We can use it wisely or let it run wild. The sad part is - when it runs wild, we do not notice the real needs. We operate in a bubble of our thoughts and interpretations.

As some emotions are too hard and/or painful some people use the same system and think the emotion into a different one. Sadness for example, in its deepest form, is paralyzing. All you can do is cry, clench on the floor and feel hopeless We all need a good cry time to time, but we also need to get things done. Sadness is not an emotion that will help you get things done. Anger however is. It has so much energy in it. It is focused. The way people do it is different, but the result is the same - one emotion is turned into another one by the need of reality. There is no time to cry, if work needs to be done and you have to pic up the kids.

In my experience changing a emotion is like drinking Red Bull. You will get the energy now, but there will be a drawback at some point. You still need a release.

But how do you resolve an emotion that has been created by your thoughts?

In the same way you resolve a regular emotion, but you also need to work with the thoughts. If they stay, the emotion will come back at some time. We often try to avoid them by bringing our attention to something else. Just like the parents do with toddlers who are crying. However, even if that is successful, it is only temporary - we still have to face the original emotion at some point.

We, humans are faulty and it does not appear better anywhere else than in our thoughts. Solving a problem with the same faulty tool (your brain) that first created it does usually not work well. Thats why we need to consult with other faulty beings - would it be friends or therapists - and they might mess it up even more. We all are complex and unique human beings and there is no-one in the world who could fully understand us.

However, it might be worth a shot to talk to someone about it, when you have constant thoughts distracting your everyday life.

All and All

Emotions are reactions to a stimuli - weather reality or thoughts. They last until there is a need for them, until they get resolved. They are natural. If you look into someones eyes for long enough - you have a shared moment of connectivity - a emotion will come from this. That is just what emotions do, it is how we react.

Therefore you cannot state emotion as good or bad. Emotions are what they are, the question is what you do with them. Do you resolve them? Do you take a deeper look into your thoughts? Do you ignore them and just try to go on with your every day tasks?

There are some thoughts and ideas that are causing the negative emotions. For example, everlasting love. This feeling as a constant can be pathological. How much guilt could it create when you freak out on your loved one? You could start thinking that maybe it is not even real thing? Maybe you are broken? And all this only because of one idealised idea that a lot of people worship and take as granted. When we have had a lot of positive shared moments with a person we could indeed call it love. However, with every new shared moment this experience will change. Relationship takes time and caring. There is no constant in it - the shared connections and moments are important, not a socially accepted idea.

Every person and every relationship is different.
Every person and every relationship is a bit messed up in its own way.
And this is why it is so awesome!