emotions and self

In an attempt to make sense of human emotions, psychologist Michel Cabanac proposed the definition that “[E]motion is any mental experience with high intensity and high hedonic content (pleasure/displeasure).” In an everyday human term, emotion is more commonly defined with reference to a list: joy, fear, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise, etc. Emotions are complex and often express itself through our physical and psychological behaviour. What the human eye is able to see is the outcome of that expression, in which the bearer allowed themselves to express. What is often not seen nor understood about a certain emotion is the source contributing to the intensity of the experience. Our robotic society has judged emotions as stumbling block to efficiency. Phrases like “Don’t let your emotions affect you!” and “Leave your emotions at home” have become a baseline in which we exist. Non-display of intense emotions qualify us as functional human being who are stable and efficient where as those displaying emotions (especially of displeasure) are deemed as weaklings.

Is emotion all that bad a thing? What if having emotions is part of what it means to be living?  There is definitely more to emotions than that! Emotions bring human experiences alive and real. I am not going to go into that but what I have increasingly become more aware is the role of emotions in telling us who we are. Every human is capable of feelings, or being aroused. However, what differentiate us from another is the intensity of our sensory arousal and the way we respond through our behaviours. For example,  the same event or incident could warrant completely different responses.

Firstly, two individuals could be equally aroused by an event or incident. However, the manner in which the arousal translates to physical and psychological behaviour between the two could be entirely different. For example, at the sight of a very messy living space, a homemaker who loves to see that her home in order could respond by (1) scream at her children for making a mess and blame the husband for not controlling the children or (2) join the play with the children, and together with the children, clean up the mess after. How we respond to our emotions tell us much about who we are inside. It is probably a good idea to pause and take a deep breathe before we react on impulse at every intense arousal, be it of joy, sadness or anger. You do not want to jump for joy at the edge of a cliff (celebrating you’ve made it!) just to fall to your death. Wisdom and priority has much to do in how we respond to our emotions. Emotions provide us a window to reflect and refine ourselves.

Secondly, the same incident and event may result in one an intense arousal but does nothing to another. Our intense arousal or non-arousal reveals much about who we are and what we care about. Our subconscious respond to external stimuli and expresses itself in the form of emotions. If we are not bothered, we probably will not feel much at all. We only respond to matters that mean something to us. So the next time somebody is angry at you, know that they care and is bothered by you.  Haha… Similarly, when you feel something very strongly (pleasure/displeasure), it is a sign that it means a lot to you.

While every human is wired differently and uniquely, we are motivated and irritated by different things. There is much talk about finding our passion and pursuing our dreams but most are left bewildered unable to pin-point the area of our passion. I believe our emotions can shed some light here. Let me elaborate.  Ask yourself the question. “What irks you?”, and then “Why?”. Ask another person the same two questions and chances are, the answers to the questions are different. The answers probably explains why the person spend most of his/her time being preoccupied with the things he/she does. For a music producer, bad music probably irks them and for a nurse, a person in pain. Because of the displeasure the music producer feels at the thought of hearing bad music for example, the music producer has taken upon himself the responsibility to produce good music. For the nurse, the displeasure she feels propels her to want to help individuals in pain. Does a person’s occupation defines who they are? No. On the contrary, our natural response to the external stimuli propels us to choose the work in which we will spend our time and energy doing – being big or small. More often than not, we will find ourselves able to do them quite well, probably because subconsciously, we are more serious in doing those things and are more willing to learn. So the next time you find something that irks you, ask yourself “why” and it may be worth while to ask a third question: “How much time is spent “fixing” that?”


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