We can sometimes be totally overwhelmed by our emotions and completely controlled by their sensations, especially our negative ones. It is in these moments that we become the emotion and its expression. Our behaviour, while under the spell of the emotion, can get us into all sort of predicaments that must be dealt with in the aftermath.
The emotions of anger, rage, fear, contempt, and sadness can lead us to behave in ways that produce results that we may later regret. We may wonder how and why we could have acted the way we did. We might wish that we could go back and behaved differently. Do we have to be so controlled by our emotions?
This is a concept that can only be appreciated in times of deep reflection and soul searching. While in an emotional moment, we are usually so caught up in the experience of the emotion that we don’t have the capability to step back and objectively analyse what is happening to us or what we are doing. While in an emotional state we have surrendered real choice, and are reacting just as a cornered wild animal does with instincts guiding its actions.
We may remember our emotional highs as being some of our best experiences and our emotional lows are probably considered our worst. One of the major theories of human nature is that people make decisions that avoid emotional pain and just seek out the pleasurable. The pleasure/pain principle is a generalisation that has mass application to humanity’s basic behaviours.
Life has been said to be paradoxical. What we avoid may well be what we need to experience in order to break out of our instinctual and reactive natures. It is outside of our instinctual nature where real choice resides. Sometimes it is out of our most uncomfortable experiences that we have the most meaningful opportunities for growth. How we interpret our problems is the key to getting our emotions under a semblance of control.
In my humble opinion, life is highly dependent upon the conversations we have in our heads. If we chose to think that life experiences are lessons that are meant to help teach us what we need to learn, then the experience can later be interpreted as being very valuable and instructive.
If we chose to be a victim of circumstance and wallow in our self-pity, then we will just experience the associated pain of our emotional distresses and be prone to revisit this same experience again. Life can be very difficult, unfulfilling and our problems seem to recur as a victim. As victims, we give up our personal responsibility to overcome our plights and surrender handling them to others.
The duality of choosing a path of personal growth or being a victim is omnipresent. Stark in their results, these two opposite paths lead us in completely opposite directions and produce completely different results. Choosing the path of personal growth does not mean that you will not experience painful emotionally driven life events. On the contrary, life will always have its ups and downs.
Trauma and tragedy will always be a part of our human experience. It is unavoidable, but at the same time we can keep from making the same mistakes over and over again. Life can become less painful when we aren’t the cause of much of our own drama and anguish. When we have an internal conversation of what problems can do for our personal growth, then our interpretation allows us to handle them and our resultant emotions with more grace and less victimisation.
Scott Trettenero’s recent book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves, others and how the world works because of our differences. Scott has maintained a solo dental practice in Southwest Florida since 1981. His research on quality service in dentistry and his interest in human temperaments formed the basis for his first book, Unlocking the T-Code. He is married and has two children.