Historically, our feelings have always been considered a source of chagrin, necessary to conceal from others. To “feel too much” is to be too invested, too emotional, too attached – in other words, a metonym of weakness. We are often told that our propensity to feel hinders our judgement. It appears that sensitivity clouds our thinking, rendering us more instinctual than rational. Why is it that society advocates logos over pathos? Perhaps, affectability may serve as a detriment to our survival, making us more vulnerable to the harshness and roughness ever present in our everyday world.
Modern day society upholds the “pursuit of happiness”, as a pillar of success. To be happy, is to have overcome adversity and adopt a positive, optimistic outlook regardless of your circumstance. This monopoly on our emotional state paves little room for other, necessary sentiments in life.
While we, as millennials, appreciate boxes that are well-defined and clearly cut, our emotional states are transient and cannot be confined in space nor time. Humans are multifaceted in their capacity to feel a kaleidoscope of sensations simultaneously. However, it may be easier to employ our feelings as definitions of our characters. If you’re sad, you must be depressed. If you’re single, you’re lonely. If you care too much, you are overprotective and possessive. This black and white polarization of emotion is radical in its effort to define our personalities. What we feel at a certain moment may be ephemeral; it doesn’t necessarily define who we are as
people. Feelings are as unpredictable as the weather – yesterday’s forecast may serve as a poor predictor of tomorrow.
To deny ourselves the various flavors of sadness, disappointment or disenchantment, is to miss out on the pleasure of getting to know ourselves better. Emotional hygiene, defined as the practice of being mindful with mental health, is only possible when we explore all the alternatives. At times, it’s inevitable or almost essential to feel a dose of pessimism, to be able to contrast it with life’s sanguineness.
As a generation, we often seek instant gratification, quickly proposing solutions to problems. We settle quickly internal turmoil for the sake of completeness, as opposed to resolving complex problems. In her article “The problem of living in the present”, Kieran Setiya proposes the idea of atelic activities, ones which are inexhaustible, and do not aim at terminal states. One could argue that our emotions are atelic. Certain feelings cannot be weakened, no matter how frequently we experience them. Just like our values, these sensations are deeply rooted within us .
According to the Freudian model, composed of the Id, the ego and superego, we retain elements of ourselves that may not be available to our conscious. Can this be translated into our emotional capacities? As with the Id, our most subconscious terrain, we may not be consciously aware of our reaction formation in many situations.
As for me, I have always been more concerned with style than substance. Rather than trying to materialize what I feel, I prefer to focus on the intensity of an emotion itself. How you experience something is as important as the drive behind any emotion. The way in which we process our emotions affects our ability to process and to cope with their intensity.
We should be mindful of what we feel, and allow our emotions to run their course. To be in tune with what you feel, is to be at ease with yourself, and accept all the beautiful variety omnipresent in our lives.