As human beings we’re too emotional, and that causes nearly all of our problems.
That goes for all problems big and small – everything from war to weight gain is linked to emotion. It’s our over-emotion that drives us to run to comfort, to lash out, or avoid things we know we should be doing.
But first, let’s acknowledge that emotion is also incredible and important. Our feelings – joy in watching a child at play, a sunset on a summer evening, pride in a job well done, the excitement of a big sporting event, or the quiet of a snowy day, these are all things that we long for. So we welcome positive emotions, and we look for them all the time, often attaching them to events like these. And they do feel good – arguably the best moments of our lives – and there is certainly no need to tamp them down or purposely feel them ‘less’ in an effort to get emotion under control.
On the other hand, there’s no need to build up these moments as if they’re so overly special either. It’s absolutely possible to feel the peace of a sunset on a dreary, rainy day in a city. It’s also possible to feel excitement and overjoyed just walking down an empty road. Having control over your emotions, even positive emotions, only brings more joy and happiness, not less. You live MORE not less.
In fact, lots of people chase the constant rush of an emotional high (drug or adrenaline) their entire lives, and they do arguably experience the absolute highest of highs, and yet their lives are often less well-lived than most.
So, of course positive emotions need not be tempered. However, a healthier view can be adopted that sees all emotion as an internal creation, and not something that comes fleetingly and beyond our control. Learning to master positive emotion means that we can feel joy and peace any time we choose, doing anything we’re doing, at any moment. But that takes practice, and learning control.
Like the best race driver, it’s not just pure unchecked speed, but control of that speed which gets them the best results. Control over that energy and power – allowing it to flow, but with the bigger picture in mind – always looking for ways to find more while keeping it in perspective – is an important part of living better.
The bigger issue is that most of our thinking is negative. Simple brain mechanics. Our genetics are those of prey animals, and therefore we are always on guard for danger. And these days the most common, everyday ‘threats’ are to our peace of mind, our ego, and our feelings. So we’re always very sharply tuned for slights from others, disappointment, annoyance, and difficulty. We’re constantly trying to avoid ‘problems’, all day long. And while all the books say “see problems as opportunities”, that’s difficult to do. Regardless of your level of maturity it takes serious practice to genuinely see a flat tire as an ‘opportunity’. Very very few ever get there, and most never try.
But one thing that can be done, without any practice and very little effort, is to simply remove some emotion from your day. Just observe your thoughts as you go about your day, hear yourself talking about what this or that means, especially trigger words like “should, shouldn’t, need, can’t, won’t”, etc. You’ll be surprised just how much emotion you bring to every little thing you do, and everything people say to you.
If you step back just a bit you might see yourself adding that layer of storytelling to your life, and you’ll see that’s where you’ve inserted unhappiness, disappointment, worry, or stress where none actually exists.
Start with one thing that bugs you tomorrow, and catch yourself in that moment. Think through how that ‘problem’ could be solved if you simply went about it as if your feelings weren’t important or even part of it at all.
If something breaks, just fix it, or call someone to fix it, or borrow another one, or go without it. Why would we become personally unhappy simply because we broke a belt on a vacuum, for example? Seems pretty silly to add an emotional story or personal component to something like that, especially given our limited time in this life.
Here we are spinning around on an enormous rock in the vastness of space, in a universe that we don’t even understand…maybe the smartest thing to do is simply order a new belt, and keep on smiling as if we were watching a beautiful sunset.