Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Feelings about feelings

Do certain emotions seem to go in and out of style? Oh sure, there are perennial favorites like love or courage. And hatred, fear or envy never seem to get good press. But there are other emotions - like pride or devotion or guilt - where our attitudes seem less clear. (Since I'm about to make another - in what has been a series of - sweeping generalization(s) on this blog, I'll stick with what I know.)

I think attitudes in 21st Century America concerning emotion are generally confused. I think this is a reflection of the individual struggles most people have with their own feelings. There are plenty of opinions out there about dealing with emotion - but many of these views come with an accompanying agenda (men need to get in touch with their emotions; to be successful in business, a woman must hide her emotions; we need to give our children more praise and positive reinforcement to help improve their self-image; we are praising our children too much and devaluing real accomplishment) - an agenda which often has nothing to do with understanding the causes of our emotional responses and using that information to our advantage.

My underlying premise is this: to think of emotions as good or bad is almost meaningless. Emotions ARE. We must deal with them. Attempts to ignore or suppress feelings, to discount their importance in the hope they will disappear are futile and (in the unlikely event of success in that endeavor) potentially damaging.

For the sake of time, let's take just one example: fear. If someone or something makes me afraid, what am I to do? Should I deny the feeling (I'm not afraid)? Or ignore it (There's nothing to be afraid of)? Should I label the emotion as "bad" in the hope of squelching it (fear is for wimps - my courage will overcome it)?

Isn't the first step to try and understand WHY I'm afraid? For if I can determine why, I may find a basis for concluding that there is nothing to be afraid of - or that I'm no longer afraid. And I can come to those conclusions in a lasting way - not by playing a trick on myself.

But just as importantly: If I had good reason to be afraid (that guy is pointing a weapon at me, Johnny's about to walk out into a busy street), I may be able to use the physical responses associated with fear (adrenaline rush, heightening of senses, (and in extreme cases) increased speed and strength) to meet the challenges of the situation.

I hope you find this topic interesting - because tomorrow, I'm planning to move on with the post I had originally envisioned for today.

It's called: "Guilt is good". Until then,

Take care.

Detroit vs. Columbus - Wings lead the best of seven series, 2 - 0


Nancy said...

I look forward to tomorrow's installment.

(btw, I think you should rename your blog "Writing with a lot of parentheses.")

Jim Styro said...

Nancy: Guilty as charged on the parentheses thing (get it?). I tried to avoid them just for you today. Hope I didn't disappoint.