Emotions. I’ve been thinking about emotions a lot lately. Probably because I’ve been having a lot of them… Anyways, you know how an idea or concept swirls in your head for a while in sort of a loose non-existent state, and then sometimes it slowly draws together into something tangible? And other times it just takes one experience for everything to just snap into place? That’s what happened recently – an epiphany on feelings and emotions, of all things. So let me expand a bit.
This year I resolved to work on improving myself. One way I planned to do that was to be more productive with my free time. For example, instead of scrolling mindlessly through social media (you know you do it too!) I decided I would be more conscious about what I watch on my phone and seek out something interesting on TED Talks or something similar. So the other day I was watching a few TED talks in the morning in order to start my day inspired, enlightened and driven. And I stumbled across THIS VIDEO.
I felt so drawn to this topic. I encourage you to watch the video yourself, but here’s a brief summary of the content. The speaker talks about how emotions aren’t universal, nor are they ‘built in’. Basically, that while we think we can read other people’s emotions by some external signs like facial expression or posture, we really can’t. This is because we all exhibit the same feelings in different ways. Now, this was a great reminder for me, but not necessarily headline news, though it may be for some. The part that really caught my ear was where she explains that we might actually be mis-reading our own emotions. That’s a pretty powerful statement, so think about that for a minute.
I can tell you that I’ve experienced this a lot lately and it’s been swirling around in my brain (in that floating, indefinite state) until I saw this video. I’ve kept my impending divorce pretty quiet over the last 6 months, just recently breaking the ice on it. But I have to tell you that I have gotten an overwhelming amount of loving support from all kinds of people in my life. People who I barely know, or people I haven’t talked to in AGES, have come out of the woodwork in this really heartwarming outpouring of love. I’ve been the recipient of some really awesome hugs and words of encouragement, so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to check in and send good vibes. <3 I’ve noticed that in many of these interactions, I feel this overwhelming urge to cry. You know, that tense closing of the throat, welling of the eyes, and trembling through the whole body.
But here’s the thing – I’m ok. I’m better than ok. I feel like I’ve woken up from a year or more of sleepwalking through life, and I’m really thriving. Promise.
So why the tears? I spent some time digging, trying to figure it out. It must be heartbreak. Maybe shock. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s just the depression – That’s it – maybe I’m still depressed and didn’t realize it. And, you know what, in a past life I would have wallowed in a self-manifested feeling of sadness, sorrow, self pity. This sort of experience, choking back tears while held in a loving embrace, would have left me feeling like I can never escape the sadness, and might have even driven me into a downward spiral, retreating away from the world to wallow in private. But something told me this was different. And now I get it, I wasn’t sad. I was experiencing the joy of receiving love.
I don’t know how long I’ve been making this mis-judgement of my own emotions, but if I’ve done it, I guarantee someone else has too. And I could feel so intensely how easy it is to take yourself down a path of labeling the experience in accordance with our expectations. But you know what – tears don’t have to mean sadness or depression. They can mean so many things. And even if they do mean sadness, maybe there’s more to it than that. Maybe it’s not so black and white, cut and dry.
So I encourage you to look a little more objectively at your emotions and challenge some of the reflex reactions we make. Because when we leave the label off, or at least don’t apply it mindlessly, we open ourselves up to experience more authentic and complex emotions; to live more fully and presently, and to take control of our lives, living purposefully and more confident in our ability to take on whatever the world throws at us.