I’ve never been comfortable with emotions. Not my own and not those of others. Two degrees in mental health apparently weren’t enough to teach me that.
Emotions don’t make sense. They don’t do what we tell them to. They paralyze us and keep us from doing what needs to be done. They draw us toward people who will hurt us, and drive us from those who would be there for us. They cause us pain when nothing is wrong, and inflict pleasure as we harm ourselves. We feel depressed or irritated or anxious or disinterested, or even happy and excited, at the most inconvenient times. We feel multiple or conflicting emotions all at once, doing battle with each other and creating mental friction.
Emotions can’t be reasoned with. They won’t submit to logic. To a rational-minded person, this is maddening. We can have everything laid out nicely in our heads. What we think we want, what we need to do to get it, our immediate steps and our long-term plans. Except our feelings won’t cooperate. They derail us, stop us in our tracks, push us backward, anything but do what we want them to and propel us forward. We can analyze a situation and determine the appropriate emotional response, the one that fits best and will be the most advantageous – but our mind won’t play along. We can know what we feel makes no sense, lay out the facts and recognize that we’re being completely irrational. And that recognition will be meaningless in the face of our emotional state.
I’ve never liked this state of affairs and I still don’t. I like to analyze things, figure them out, and act accordingly. I want to be able to examine my life, the world, reality itself, to weigh the evidence and determine the principles I should live by. Emotions are not conducive to this approach. They won’t fit into the framework.
But I’ve come to a new understanding. I’ve learned, gradually and the hard way, that emotions are reality. Our past shapes us and teaches us life lessons. We orient toward the future. But our experience of life is and always will be the present. And the present is made up of emotions. The way we feel at any given time represents our existence in its purest form. Even our theories and analyses are ultimately driven by emotion, our attempts to make sense of what we feel and have felt and have seen in others. We can accept our feelings or try to intellectualize or alter or suppress them, but we can’t escape them.
Emotions can’t be understood, can’t be controlled, but most importantly, can’t be denied. Transitory and often nonsensical, still they dominate every moment of our lives. The constant and unfathomable mystery. The religion to our science. There is no explanation of our lives that can adequately account for them, yet any explanation that doesn’t account for them has to be false. So they force us to accept our own limitations, to recognize we are driven by something beyond ourselves.
I’m still not comfortable with emotions. I don’t get them and very frequently I don’t like them. But at long last, I’ve learned to respect them.