Why do we often try to punish the people we love by distorting our emotional states? Are we even aware that we try to use our emotions to punish the people around us? Emotions are constantly with us. We cannot turn them off; at least there is no science that has yet proven that we can switch off our emotions and ban them totally from being a part of our daily lives. And while emotions constantly get a not-so-good representation, they are very important and guiding for everyday survival.

This means that emotions, in and of itself are not bad. What seems bad is that we have learned to weaponize our emotions in almost the same way that babies rely only on their robust emotional expressions to be able to capture adult attention, and get care. We have even learned how to invoke a suffering in the people who are at the receiving ends of our unpleasant emotions.

It is very correct that humans have something called the mirror neurons, which makes it that we are emotional contagions. Before I became an emotionally aware person, my family and friends used to tell me that I was like electricity, and the whole room went dark whenever I switched off. In retrospect, I feel so awful to know how much distress I was putting the people around me through. This meant that everyone, or almost everyone around me had to probably compromise their true self or happiness in order to ensure that I did not “switch off!”. What a terrible position to be in just to keep another person’s light on! I have to say that I am most grateful for the friends and family who put in so much work to help keep my lights on in my emotionally immature days!

So why do we try to punish with our emotions? My honest response would most likely be a lacking in emotional awareness. Emotionally unaware people are indeed difficult to relate with. But with emotional awareness, we learn how so often we slip in and out of emotional rollercoasters. With increased emotional awareness, we begin to easily recognize and understand exactly what it means to be emotionally labile or reactive. At higher levels of emotional awareness, we learn to correctly identify situations or events that do or do not require our emotions, as well as how to separate ourselves from what or how we are feeling.

For starters, emotional hyperexcitability is quite dangerous for the person who is always in this state. Furthermore, it makes interpersonal relationships a much more tasking process. What I have learned is that a highly emotionally reactive person may not be able to achieve a lot intellectually. The reason is that a constantly distracted person cannot concentrate or focus, and without these, achieving worthwhile feats in life may not come easily. So while we get ourselves into hyper-excitable states to try and punish the people we believe have put us in these states, it is important to remember that we first of all disrupt ourselves by interjecting our previously calm thought stream with a turbulence or rippling. When this happens, it takes a while before the stream settles back to a total calm, and takes another while before we enter back into the popular state of “flow”.

What is something someone is likely to say when their thought process has been intercepted even if briefly or expectedly? They often ask, “…where was I?”. This is because hyper-excitable states interfere with forming, sustaining, and accessing memory. And even if we are able to form memories in our hyper-excitable states, the continued work of science has shown that memories formed at such times are usually not accurate. Something I learned from the translations of the great Seneca’s works on human emotions is: if the situation has a solution, why get upset? And if the situation has no (immediate) solution, why get upset? It has been one of the most logical solutions that helped me understand how we waste our emotions needlessly, especially when intended to punish another person!

When we get needlessly upset, we put ourselves through so much inflammatory distress that is capable of reshaping our nervous and other biological responses to the life around us. Sometimes, stress is real and due indeed to how much we have to handle. Some other times, stress is made up by us because of our inability to identify how we are self-generating these stressors.

Emotional awareness is a well explored subject. It is self-taught, and takes regular practice. In a few steps each day, we can learn to become more emotionally aware. The first step is in being able to recognize when our emotional state has shifted, and being able to name the new emotional state we have found ourselves. The next step is in recognizing why we are in that state. Note that in order to be able to recognize these changes, we must have already been totally familiar with what our default emotional state is.

Do you think emotions are effective tools for change? Leave us your comment for a chance to have your opinion featured in our next article!


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