I love how sometimes the silliest things I hear get stuck in my head and become the foundation for something profound. During my coach’s training, one of our leaders dropped this corny phrase that at the time just made me laugh. She said, “Emotions emote.” Those two little words have been the basis for much of what I understand about how we feel and react to our feelings. The definition of an emotion is a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others and to emote is to show emotion. So basically, she was saying that emotions express themselves.
For me, this is the concept that emotions are energy that is wanting to be expressed. The Law of Conservation of Energy says that energy is never destroyed, it just changes forms. When you burn wood, the chemical energy of the wood becomes light and heat and through some crazy math, you can prove that the exact amount of energy that was in the log has been converted into some other form. But what does all this have to do with being pissed at your co-worker? Let’s say your boss has really gotten on your nerves by insisting that you do all your reports in Comic Sans. This makes you extremely angry but instead of going and telling your boss off, you decide to instead hold it in. Later, you’re talking with your partner who has committed some minor infraction, but instead receives the entirety of your anger not only toward them but also toward your boss.
The energy of an emotion has to go somewhere. It wants to be expressed or more accurately, it must be expressed. We tend not to notice the problems associated with not expression emotion when we’re happy only when we’re sad or angry. This is because our society has told us that we should always be happy and it we aren’t, there’s something wrong with us. It’s ok for us to express our happiness, or excitement, or love, but if we’re sad or angry or frustrated, we’re taught to not express it openly. Or if we do, others are immediately attempting to make us feel better. This leads many people to bottle up all that energy until it finally comes bursting out in a way that is much more destructive than it would have been otherwise.
Now please understand that I’m not advocating that when your boss pisses you off, you should go down to his office and give him what for. I am however suggesting that the energy of being angry needs an outlet and wouldn’t you rather it be something like a stress doll or a workout, then yelling at your significant other? Sometimes I find myself just taking some time to myself and being whatever I am at the moment with the understanding that how I’m feeling will pass. I’ve asked my wife on numerous occasions to just let me be sad for a minute.
There’s a Zen saying that goes something like “When tired, sleep. When hungry, eat.” This also applies to emotions. When happy, laugh. When sad, cry. When not happy, don’t laugh. When not sad, don’t cry.