Enemies Within

Most of us float along on a sea of emotion. I like to think that I’m a logical and thought-driven person, but the truth is that I am at least as emotionally driven as anyone. I feel this way, I feel this way, this feels right, this feels wrong, I don’t know how I feel about the other thing; it’s an endless negotiation with what might be another person inside. In a sense, that’s sorta the way it is.

Logicating our way around emotional responses isn’t easy. Sure, we understand that the way we feel is a bio-chemical phenomenon. Every day we wake up in a different mood, we react slightly differently, nothing is ever quite the same as it was the day before, and so on. That’s our body chemistry at work.

Understanding, however, is not influence and it’s even a greater distance from control. Influencing our feelings requires conscious acts, at least for me. If I’m feeling sad, connect with friends; if angry, exercise; if frustrated, be constructive. No doubt you’re somewhere close to the same place.

Controlling emotions, though, is likely one of the most difficult quests one can undertake. Self-control is the filtering of emotions so that our acts have a logic or character input as well. That raises the point that we can’t really control the emotion itself, only the way we respond to it. By taking a metaphoric deep breath, we give ourselves a circuit-breaker in the process, a way to prevent the precipitous behavior that we often think of as being emotional.

If you’re good at this, you might even be able to pre-think ways around likely responses. Like plans for war, this probably won’t survive first contact with the enemy, but it’s worth a try nonetheless. Let me know how you go.

The relevance of all this to coupling is obvious, especially if you’ve made as many crappy emotional decisions as me. There’s no way to remove emotions from our lives, and in any case no-one is interested in an automaton. But a measure of self-control and detachment can help an awful lot, especially when we figure that time – even a small amount inserted into the middle of something – mellows many otherwise disastrous decisions.