COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Up and Down and All Around… (yes, our emotions)

Imagine three scenarios. First is a client who’s depressed because a boyfriend has left her. The next person is excited about her new job. She’s just started and its full of potential. Her happiness today seems unending. And the last scenario is a  friend who has a crush on a single dad who comes into her business world frequently. She tells me she almost wants to reach out and touch him. Just  touch him. She has an emotional crush on him.

What’s the similarity here? All are in the throes of emotion. They exist, but yes, the emotions will pass.  They will either wither away as time goes on or be replaced as new events occur.

Emotions come and go, rise and fall. They  are transitory. They are temporary visitors, so to speak. But  in the midst of them, be it depression or happiness or attraction, it can feel all-consuming. It can feel like one will or could die from the pain of loss or from the all wonderfulness of happiness. It’s a feeling.  Repeat:  A feeling. I could say, Just a feeling.

To some extent, people  learn to handle feelings. From the time we are children, we are encouraged to modulate our feelings. Feeling angry, frustrated? Yes, a temper tantrum might be the immediate response of a toddler but we are taught to handle that emotion better. We are rewarded for not kicking out heels and wailing. It gets even trickier. In some families, members are discouraged from acknowledging sadness or grief. We all learn certain behaviors that allow us to mix well with our immediate society. But sure enough, no one emotion rules day in, day out.  Happiness dulls. Sadness lightens. And every other kind of emotion does the same…

Some people have a hard time with emotions. Three year olds, for example. They are just learning the power of anger and frustration. A certain personality disorder exists that also makes emotional control difficult. Those with the disorder run with every emotion as it presents itself. Excluding those two groups, the rest of the population, depressed, happy or on a flirtatious high, need to practice modulation as opportunites occur.

Okay. How’s that going to happen?? Well, it takes practice. Sort of mind over matter. Recognizing how one wants to “behave.”  Realizing that the emotion of today may not be the emotion of tomorrow. Life offers surprises that shift things around. Learning that most emotions don’t reguire any special action. Depressed? It may be temporary and pass. It may even morph into anger. In any case,  counseling is always an option. Happy to the max? Yes, but… a few weeks later you will be happy but with some reality thrown in. . Feeling love for someone? Time will tell if its reciprocated. If anything, its a nice way to find out more about oneself… what type of person is attractive to you, for example.

People don’t like feeling sad or angry. Even an extra dose of happiness can be almost uncomfortable. But it would be a dismal place, indeed, if we didn’t feel things. Our gut reactions to things were once part of our survival systems.  Instincts, in other words. A person’s emotions give us information about our world and ourselves. Its important, maybe not for survival anymore, but for well being, to take note of our emotions. Fear and disgust are immediate warning signals. Sadness and anxiety are like the yellow traffic light… slow down and look around…. you may need to stop doing something. Anger may need reasonable and well thought out actions. And love feelings just need to be analyzed as a reflection of oneself.

By Tobi Nason

Tobi is a Manzanita counselor.