Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Emotional Pool

We live in a culture that tells us there is something wrong with us if we are not happy. This is a lie. If every time we are angry, sad or frustrated we start to feel that there is something wrong with us then it makes it that much harder to get over those emotions. Being happy is fun and we should work to living life in such a way that we are happy as much of the time as possible however we need to make sure that it is base state happiness not transient stimulated happiness.

We have types of emotional states we can find our self in: base states and stimulated states. In a stimulated emotional state we usually feel the emotion intensely and for a short period of time. It may be the momentary amusement at a joke or the flash of hurt from a snide comment made by a loved one. Both of these give us a momentary burst of emotion but we get over it quickly and fall back to our base state. The emotional base state is where we spend most of our time and may be an underlying frustration, or general contentment. On most days for most people our base emotional state is the way we wake up feeling in the morning.

Let's think of our emotional base state as a pool of water. Standing on a platform in the middle of the pool is a machine filled with different color dyes. When we come in to a stimulated emotional state the machine splashes some dye in to the water and the pond changes color then after a few minutes the pond reverts to normal. Now there are also two types of dye, to types of stimulated emotional states: Persistent, these leave a faint hint of their color on the base state after they fade and transient, when these are gone they are gone.

We need to allow ourselves to experience our emotions as they happen. If we do not recognize and deal with our emotions moment to moment we do not truly experience our lives. Our emotions are our reaction to the events in the world around us, they exist to guide our actions and help us to learn. If we do not allow ourselves to deal with them in real time we can concentrate a number of transient stimulated emotions into a base state. This is a process that most often happens with the so called negative emotions: Anger, sadness, envy, fear, and so forth. This is because we have been trained by society and culture that it is bad to feel that way and worse to show others you feel that way. The result is we resist felling our emotions until they overflow and fill our base state pool. Once this effluent of unfelt anger or sadness has contaminated our base state it can take a long time to clean up the mess.

While it is damaging to hide from our emotions the desire to be happy is not in and of its self wrong. The means to achieving this however is not to hide from the "negative" emotions but instead to feel them and let them pass like clouds driven before a storm. While we are doing that we also need to adjust our lives to create opportunities to experience persistent stimulated happiness. What this means for each of us is different. What are the things that make you happy that stick? Is it time with friends? Is it a clean house? Is quiet time with a good book? It may be one of these or it may be all of these, either way if we wish to be happy we must make sure there is room in our lives for these experiences.

Here is not how to be truly happy. Fill your life with transient stimulated happiness. Here we feel happy but it fades quickly. This is a chocolate bar or a one night stand. These are things that feel good while they are happening but can bring guilt or shame or emptiness as the sensation fades. When the feeling fades we have to find another fix, another hit.

Be happy as much of the time as possible but allow yourself to feel what the moment requires of you. Create a way of living that sustains your happiness without creating false highs. This is the path to lasting happiness. The way to keep your eye on the path is be aware of the moment and be honest with yourself.

Editing Project: Small Victory


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