From time to time the darkness would overwhelm me.
It turns out that I am an emotional being, which is an unwanted paradigm shift for a taciturn and repressed English guy like me. And yet, for much of my recent life I have been completely defined and driven by powerful emotions.
From time to time my psyche would spiral down a dark hole into a place where I became angry, jealous, manipulative, paranoid, resentful, unreasonable… filled with negative thoughts and feelings.
These emotions would hit me out of nowhere, coming from deep within my subconscious mind, usually when my conscious guard was down ~ because I was tired, stressed, had been drinking, or someone close had lied to me, or perhaps just because something had gone slightly wrong in my life.
And these intense, darkly negative emotions could often drive a complete change in my personality, turning me from a rational and sociable man into an irrational and dangerous Mr. Hyde.
One thing you can’t hide ~ is when you’re crippled inside. ~ John Lennon.
The reality is that intensely negative and darkly dangerous emotions are driven by fear, and in my case probably a paranoid fear of abandonment created by the Borderline Personality Disorder I have suffered from for most of my life.
Fear is powerful, deep, affecting the most primeval part of our psyche, what Freud calls the id. And fear generates the equally powerful fight or flight reflex. At my darkest I would fight by attacking people verbally and in writing, and run away into a bottle of booze. Neither of these reflex actions was in the least useful to me.
What I needed was a strategy which allowed me to accept my negative emotions without allowing their destructive power to ruin my relationships and my life ~ wanting to find a suitable way to check out of life is not good.
What I needed was to be more emotionally stable and resilient.
It turns out that emotionally resilient people have some important things in common. Emotionally stable and resilient people;
- Are Realists. Grounded. Optimists are soon disappointed and easily lose hope. Realists make the best they can of the ‘Now’.
- Have Faith. Believe in something greater than themselves, something greater than whatever bad situation they may find themselves in.
- Are extremely and radically creative.
- Have a support network of close friends, doctors, counsellors, 12-step groups…
- Have a great, but usually weird and warped, sense of humour.
These are all things that I could invent for myself. I can grow and develop these character traits that actually exist in all of us. Each day I have been able to further manifest these character traits within myself. Every hour I have become more emotionally stable and resilient.
One ought to hold onto one’s heart; for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head too. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche.
Life goes on, and I do not have to allow my emotions to control me.
Although my emotions are an important part of me, I AM NOT MY EMOTIONS.
Some say that negative emotions have an important role to play in a happy life. And that negative emotions are telling you that you need to change and transform yourself. All I know is that you can turn things around and control how your emotions affect you.
Life does not have to be perfect to be good.
We cannot control our emotions.
Various psychologists, behavioural scientists, and sundry people in white coats, disagree a little on just how many human emotions there are. They also tend to disagree on exactly what these feelings do to us.
However, trolling through their divergent opinions, and adding a little basic common sense, we can come up with a more or less definitive list of the main human emotions. These are; Anger, Fear, Happiness, Sadness, and Love. Personally I’d add another, I think Lust is a very powerful raw emotion. Or maybe Lust only affects men?
We can call these raw emotions by other, more polite, names. Lust is transformed into desire, and many of us call the feeling of desire Love. How many men have said; ‘I love you’, when what they truthfully meant was; ‘I desire you, I want you’? I know I have fallen into that despicable sexual trap in the past.
For most of us, by far the strongest emotion is . It’s what keeps people in dysfunctional relationships, lousy jobs, and mind numbing routines. We are afraid of change, we fear abandonment, we fear loss of status, most of all we fear death.
Those of us who have, or have had, a psychological / mental illness have an intimate relationship with fear. The emotionally disturbed are often a maelstrom of Fear and Anger.
For aeons the heart was thought to be the seat of emotions, especially Love. Now, most respectable scientists profess that the brain is where emotions live. Although, some left field professors say that the gut is where emotions begin. Me, I’m neither respectable nor a scientist, and the last time I wore a white coat was at a costume party. I don’t know where our emotions live, and I don’t know exactly how they work.
However, I do know where your emotions come from.
Our emotions and instincts are hard-wired into our body, mind, and spirit. They originate as far back in time as when the first thing crawled out of the primeval slime. Emotions and instincts are what drove the survival behaviours of things that could never be described as intelligent life. What do you think drove the raw savagery of Tyrannosaurus Rex? What do you think makes sharks such a successful life-form?
Instincts and raw animal emotions bypass the intellect. Emotions have nothing to do with intelligence and common sense. Emotions are powerful in exactly the same way that thought isn’t. From the moment life began emotions controlled the behaviour of all life forms, and emotions still control human behaviour today.
Intellectually, a man can know that some particular woman is bad for him, yet will he willingly give her up? Probably not because his emotions completely override his common sense. If she thinks about it, a woman may know that it’s stupid to stay with a man who mentally, emotionally, physically abuses her ~ yet how many women are trapped in abusive relationships because their emotions won’t let them leave him?
Most of us will do almost anything to assuage our emotions. Some of us will go to any lengths to satisfy our raw emotions ~ up to and including the death of self and / or others. Emotions are the most powerful driving forces in each of our lives. Positive, or negative, or a mixture of both, we are each controlled by our feelings. All that intelligence and intellect does is to overlay some civilisation on top of our innate savagery.
Me, Us, You, Them, can do something about these emotions that drive our every action. We can’t stop the feelings, and we can’t control the feelings, but we can control what we do.
You may get so angry with your partner that you want to stab them in the eye with a sharp knife. You may fear the outside world so much that you never want to leave your home. You may think you love someone so much that you willingly sublimate your identity just to please them. Yet our intelligence and intellect will eventually tell us that we need to escape into the broad sunlit uplands of rationality.
At that point you may seek counselling, psychiatry, medical help, inspirational speakers and writers, or self-help groups. Trust me, none of that will do you any good at all. These people will probably tell you to control your emotions, and that’s as impossible as turning back the tide.
The only thing we can do is accept these emotions and at the same time unconditionally accept ourselves. We must recognise that life is difficult, painful, and mostly beyond our control. We must be prepared to make some brave choices. Leaving the one you’re with may tear your heart in two, but that’s just a raw primeval emotion, the feelings will pass, and the sooner we make those brave choices the sooner our emotions will stop torturing us.
Your emotions are utterly beyond your control. Your emotions also lie to you. Your emotions may make you feel bad or good, but those are just feelings, they have nothing to do with reality. The reality is that your emotions lie to you, that’s their job, they developed to keep a cave-man alive. In this day and age we need the sense to accept our emotions for what they are, a very broad brush indeed.
See beyond your emotions. See the world in it’s true colours. Enjoy your emotions when they are good, but don’t get carried away. Live with your emotions when they are bad, but accept bad emotions as the storm flags they really are. And, at this time of year, let yourself feel the innocent joy and of love of Christmas.
these thoughts are mine and mine alone
MEN ARE NOT THE SAME AS WOMEN
Psychologists, psychiatrists, and people in white coats from many branches of science are usually prepared to admit that there is a difference between the brain of the average manly man, from that of the average womanly woman. However, these same smart people will also often admit that they have no real idea about what causes one person to develop behaviour patterns largely associated with one sex and not the other. Scientists can even measure the differences between the brains of men and women, and there are a lot, but knowing how big the differences are doesn’t say much about how they come about.
As one glaringly obvious example, females handle language in a different and more specialised part of their brain than do males. In general women are far more naturally articulate than men, and use a greater number of ways to communicate. But why? It could be that it’s genetic and down to the obvious biological differences between men and women which makes our brains work differently. It could be that men and women have totally different race memories. Or, it could be that it’s mostly down to different nurturing, conditioning, education and experience. With no apologies to Feminists or the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender, (LGBT), it turns out that it’s all three. Some differences between the sexes are hard-wired and immutable. Some differences between the manner in which the sexes behave are down to basic biology.
The genetic bias is intense enough to cause a substantial division of labour between women and men, even in the most egalitarian of societies. Even if the sexes receive identical education and equal access to all professions, men are likely to have a disproportionate role in politics, business, engineering and science. Women have a disproportionately greater role in child-minding, and in nurturing professions such as medicine. Sociobiologists believe women are genetically programmed for maternal feelings, for superior verbal abilities, and for performing repetitive tasks not requiring deep thought. In contrast, men are genetically suited to more logical and analytical thinking and have superior spacial awareness.
Men and women are so different that we may as well be different species.
Men need to solve problems, and women need to talk.
There are large behavioural overlaps between the sexes. It is possible for a person with a woman’s biology to think they are really a guy, (gender identity), yet still behave in a feminine way. Some women have more masculine traits than other women. Some women can even throw a ball, or use a wrench correctly, or tell left from right. Some men have more feminine traits than other men. Some men can do multitasking, hold a conversation, or even choose clothes in matching colours. Nonetheless, the standard, comical, caricatures of men and woman are mostly correct in that men are inarticulate insensitive brutes, and women are chatty emotional and nurturing creatures.
What this means that men and women react very differently to situations. Women tend to feel things more deeply, and with a far greater range of emotions than do men. Women keep score, and never forget. Within seconds, most men will have forgotten something insensitive they said to their significant other, thinking it didn’t matter anyhow, and that they were right all along. In contrast, women will feel that hurt to the core of their being, try and assign a wider meaning to the insensitive comment, think about their relationship with their guy, look for hidden meanings, add the hurt to the list of other ‘bad’ things their guy has done, and usually forgive him. Eventually.
Women are always forgiving men for something we have done. Often guys do very dumb stuff, but often guys have no idea why what they did was so bad. That’s because men and women look at the world differently, and women tend to care far more than men. Most men could care less about other people, especially about people who mean little to them in practical terms ~ which is basically 99.9% of the entire world. Most women are genetically programmed to care about people, and when their guy is disparaging toward someone they care about, then women tend tend to become very upset. The problem for most guys is that most women care about most people, in one way or another.
In general, it takes a real effort for a man to think about, care about, understand, or even acknowledge the existence of anyone outside of his immediate family and small circle of friends. In general, women want to know everything about everyone they meet. In general woman have a much wider circle of friends than most men, care about them, remember names and faces. Women even remember and care about birthdays, anniversaries, special dates…
These gender differences can cause real problems in relationships between men and women. Often men are very unthinking and unfeeling creatures, and there isn’t much a guy can do to change his underlying genetic programming / race memories / conditioning. So men tend to upset women.
Because all men have some feminine traits, the things that guys do which so upset women will sometimes also upset men.
And, so what? As behavioural scientists know, most men could care less about the feelings of others. Most of the time, most men have such a shallow and narrow range of emotions, that they themselves don’t feel much more than the most basic things. Some say that all human behaviour can be reduced to four, (possibly six) basic emotions. these are; happiness, sadness, fear / surprise, anger / disgust. Well, that ‘research’ had to have been undertaken by a bunch of guys because even I know that the emotions of womanly women are much more complicated and complex than that. Men see things in straight lines and in terms of black and white. Women see the whole of the world in all of it’s colours and complexities.
The bottom line is; Men should think twice before they say or do anything. If a guy can’t think of anything nice to say, he shouldn’t say anything at all. If you really want to hurt a woman, then just be an average guy for a while.