Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pondering my emotions

Recently I was somewhere and one of the other people there was truly annoying me. Nothing they were doing or saying had any inherent annoyance factor in them. But I felt myself getting agitated and anxious. I wanted to say something (which would have been inappropriate and wrong given the circumstances) or I wanted to escape (which wasn't rational either).

An hour or so later I found myself in my car with a 40 minute drive ahead of me and decided to ponder the emotions I had felt. I wanted to unwrap what was going on inside me. I wanted to understand, in some way, the feelings I had experienced in those moments. What was it that was annoying and agitating me so much without any rational reason?

I long ago came to believe that we don't 'have feelings'--Feelings 'have us'. My emotions and feelings, I've come to understand over the years, are autonomous things that rush in and seize or embrace me. A feeling of love and wonder 'embraces' me. Feelings like I had that day and like embarrassment or anger, 'seize' me and hold on for dear life. (Just remember when someone you cared about was sad or mad or afraid. Then remember how you saying "don't be sad/mad/afraid" seemed to help things....) No 'feelings' I believe, or inherently 'good' or 'bad'. That's  just what we judge and call them. Fear, for example, is as morally neutral as awe. My feelings come and go. I can neither bid them come or command them to leave.

Feeling are in an existential way. I'm not my feelings. I am merely embraced or seized by my emotions. Who I am is the being experiencing the feelings and emotions. They don't define me anymore than I control and manipulate them. They are like autonomous things that I encounter during my life. And there is more value in pondering them than in reacting to them.

And, perhaps the best way to react to the feelings--whichever they are (the ones I judge 'bad' and resist or the ones I judge 'good' and enjoy)--would be to embrace them, whether they embrace me or seize me. Sort of like holding a crying child in the latter case or holding a loving child in the former case. Sort of like holding myself whatever I'm feeling....

You know, I just re-read all this and think I've gone too far to fast.

This is the way I deal with emotions (at least the ones I find unpleasant) but reading this makes me sound like a mad man of sorts.

Here's the truth, cutting to the chase, what I most often find is so about people who annoy or upset me is that I am either reacting to some part of me I don't quite embrace that I see in them or reacting to something in me that I truly embrace that I find contradicted by them.

Does any of this make any sense?

Since I'm not sure, I'm leaving it there.

(By the way, what I figured out about the guy who annoyed me was that he is a lot like me but doesn't agree with me. He was acting out his formality and conservatism the way I act out my informality and liberalism. So, in a technical term, he PISSED ME OFF. That simple. I saw my own obsession with the way I want to be perceived mirrored and backward in him. I don't know, that seems sort of valuable to know to me....But like I said, I'm leaving it there....)

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.