Rebirth of Reason

The Good Life

Roller Coaster Feelings
by Elizabeth Kanabe

Why do we allow ourselves to feel emotional pain? The idea that mere words, a sudden realization, or something visual could cause intense pain without touching us seems to be unnecessary. A few years ago I had muted the television while two people were talking. A few seconds later, they were in a heated debate and furious at each other. I wondered what few words could have transpired in those seconds to invoke such responses. If the words uttered had used just slightly different syllables, they could possibly have led to intense happiness.

Because words are not physical, yet cause physical reactions, people often think there is a way to control the reaction and remain happy or calm even in hearing those same words. They think that if they can breathe correctly or take their mind away, they will be more in control as they should be. It's an idea that we should choose our own responses. However, this isn't possible without consequences. Words, sounds, and sights alone don't have any affect on us. It is only once we attach meaning, percepts and context that they have significance.

The first impact that this idea of controlling reactions has is that it actually place blame on the person experiencing a negative reaction. No matter what has happened, the fact that you have allowed it to cause such a response in you means that you have failed to remain in control. Rather than justify anger or place blame on the person that has performed some injustice to you, instead of teaching you how to analyze a problem, the method teaches that you should not allow negative emotions to surface.

How do you not allow these emotions to be felt? Well, in one of two ways. You can either repress the feelings that were aroused or you treat the encounter as you would a neutral or good interaction to evoke a more positive emotion. Neither of these allows you to analyze the situation objectively, and worse yet they don't allow you to deal with the situation or rectify it. Quite the opposite, if you treat ill will towards you as you would something beneficial, you set yourself up for it to happen again.

The amounts of joy or anger that can be experienced in a situation usually go hand in hand. It is only relationships that you are intensely involved in that can bring you the greatest joy, or cause you the greatest suffering. Take as an example a person that you fall deeply in love with. If (s) he reciprocates, you are as happy as can be. But, if (s)he breaks your heart, you leave yourself open to a great deal of anguish. Try telling someone who has just had their heart broken that it's just words, and that they should get over it or make themselves forget. Those that do often have a hard time taking a chance again. On the other hand, if you do not invest your time and energy in a situation, a work project for example, if it fails you will not be as upset as if you had invested a great deal of time, money and thought in the project. But if it succeeds, it will not bring you pride either.

I see people trying to deal with situations by overriding their emotions. Instead of being okay with a situation and therefore naturally calm in it, they react with anger and try to override it when they realize it's inappropriate. They try to evoke a preconditioned response to a bad event, without actually changing how they think about it. A simple example is a person in traffic when they are in no hurry to get somewhere. Some people will not be bothered by the traffic. They will put in a good CD, roll down the windows to enjoy the air and relax. Others will be agitated, and still others will be irritated but try to block out the traffic and the world until they get home. They feel as if the traffic has not bothered them, but that is because they chose to pretend it's not there. Anger management is not about learning to not act on your rage, but to control situations and prevent them from evoking rage when they shouldn't. Understand your feelings and recognize if they are appropriate responses to a situation. Don't try to just cover them up and think that it makes you strong. You can't truly enjoy your emotions that way.

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