Barbara Emrys

Emotions, Drama and You

In any discussion about emotions, it’s important to recognize the distinction between human emotion and emotional drama. Let’s face it; the two have been fatally linked throughout most of human history. The body is a factory for emotions. It’s one of the many things the body does to maintain health and equilibrium. Emotion is the natural response to perception. We perceive life, of course, with all our senses. Whether or not action is required, we still feel. Our confusion comes from the well-practiced habit of taking orders from the mind rather than from sensory perception. Thinking became the body’s tyrant as soon as we mastered language. I’m referring to us as small children, but the same observation applies to the species as it has evolved. There was a point at which we began to think, and it wasn’t at the moment of our first breath. With words, we began to interpret the information our senses provided for us. We became experts in reanalyzing that information by thinking – by telling a story that life tells us through the simple acts of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or just feeling the wind on our skin. We began to develop opinions about everything, and to pass opinions on as if they were as priceless as truth. Opinions have been all the rage since the beginning of human thinking, and we consider them our greatest power – ask any five year-old. Opinions define us and direct us. They don’t require any basis in fact and they are habitually supported by memory, another means of retelling immediate perception. Memory, the mechanism that was designed to offer reference and continuity, has become a co-conspirator against the present moment.
There is no doubt that we are highly intelligent beings. It seems a waste to jeopardize the legacy of that intelligence with the mayhem of emotional drama. Drama is not the sad consequence of being human, by the way. Being human doesn’t require angst and hysteria. We know instinctively how to respond to real danger and extreme events. Drama is the result of believing too much in what we know.
Knowledge is a commodity that serves the human dream to spectacular effect. It opens channels of communication and it has the ability to bring together people of diverse circumstance. It feeds the mind. It makes it responsive to new ways of thinking and an ally to perception. Knowledge is making this discussion possible, after all. These are the good things, the reasons that have made thought a constant asset in human evolution. Unsupervised, our personal arsenals of knowledge do much to keep us in the dark, however. Rather than see and listen, we are content to assume and to judge. We claim to have deep insight every time we listen to the playback of old ideas in our heads. We hear that voice and give it immediate authority over us. We aren’t seeing. We don’t listen. We’re too busy collecting the bits of knowledge we need to protect common opinion and prejudice. We have learned to use knowledge as a wall against perception and a fortress against truth.
It is our bodies, however, that have made the ultimate sacrifice to knowledge – surrendering the powerful authenticity of human emotion. From a very early age, our thoughts formed ideas and convictions that mirrored the ideas of those around us, and then they started taking on a life of their own. The body, recognizing an opponent far too formidable to challenge, turned its attention to the directives of words, spoken and unspoken. Sensation, the force that once moved us toward pleasure, took a back seat to thought.
As we developed socially, we learned to use emotions to fulfill a personal agenda – a mental agenda, I should say. The process of emoting informed us and rebooted us as small children. Emotions came and went quickly, leaving us with a slightly evolved perspective. Then, through example and much practice, we learned to make emotional expression something other than a shortcut to awareness. We learned to make it a chronic and prolonged event. Amplified and sustained, an emotional tantrum gives kids power in an adult world. It brings them a sense of control, if only fleeting. It brings them attention – and it doesn’t really matter whether the response from parents is pleasant or unpleasant. Attention is the greatest prize in the human dream. Having learned to capture attention this way, we settled into lifelong emotional patterns, whether they made sense to us or not. The cast of people in our drama may have changed, the situations may have changed, but the patterns remain. We slipped into autopilot early in life and now act as if we are the desperate victims of our own emotions.
There’s more to say about how we have defamed emotions in order to keep them loyal servants to a bad cause. For now, let’s just focus on how perception becomes compromised when an emotional response system is corrupted by you. The you in this discussion is the one speaking and thinking and driving the actions of the human it occupies. You is knowledge speaking on behalf of that human. Argue with me if you want, but I kind of know you. I recognize the one who uses authentic emotion against the body. Anger, jealousy, despair are only emotional responses – neither negative nor positive, neither good nor bad. Nurtured and encouraged over time, they become part of your overall personality, even identity. This is not really natural, but it has become normal to humans over the ages. Moreover, the ‘normalcy’ of such decimating emotional reactions is supported through classic fable, through literature, and the artistic expression of entire cultures. You condemn the human and elevate reason, leaving happiness completely out of the equation.
Emotion is the messenger of truth. When emotions take their cues from malicious and runaway thinking, truth turns to lie. Drama, conflict and suffering are the result. All of that may seem normal, but it is not really acceptable. Humanity has always benefited from unusual changes in perception. The world shifts whenever there is a trend toward peace and personal happiness. Everything changes when people refuse to be victims to their own reality. And, of course, the change starts with you.

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