When life pushes us to the limits
BY: Troy Murphy | August 2014
We are emotional beings. The emotions correspond with collisions with life, giving richness to experience. The emotions give value, measuring the personal importance of outside events. Sometimes life, in all its fury, overwhelms us, with powerful emotions storming through our bodies, we freeze.
We store emotional memories which re-emerge later, reminding of the past and warning of the future. Our limbic system scans the environment for perceived dangers, not just physical threats but also threats to well-being, emotions bubble up from the core, shaking security and motivating action.
Significant threats poke biological systems to action, preparing the body and mind for combat, the danger must be addressed; the system activates whether the threat is real or perceived. Threats come in many forms: a raised voice, a shadow, an uncomfortable question, a critical remark, unexpected change, or a man running towards us with an axe. Depending on the immediacy and severity, the heart speeds, blood flows, and logic is suspended.
On our journey to self-actualization, recognizing bodily excitements bumping us towards a reactionary response is essential. We must find enough space to break the chain or reaction, replacing thoughtless retorts with directed action. Abundant futures require thoughtful presents. If we blindly charge through reactionary chains, the more deterministic outside events become. Blind responses strangle vitality, leading down dead-end pathways, ruining relationships and destroying opportunities. We must intervene in this process.
The goal isn’t to extinguish feeling, relying solely on logic. Emotions essential information, providing a connection to experience. Logic may determine a better path, but emotion dictates where we want to go. Emotional maturity smoothly blends feeling and cognition.
Understanding the human biological and sociological heritage boosts effective action, knowing our heritage, allows for smoother integration of thought and emotion.
Memories tagged with emotion assist processing of the present, directing avoidance of danger fraught with unnecessary pain. The emotion effectively alerts the mind of reoccurring threats. Overly abusive and chaotic pasts disrupt the functioning of the warning systems, the setting is overly sensitive, the smallest event triggers impending catastrophe. The brain needs re-setting, new experiences that disprove embedded beliefs. We must find safety first and then slowly integrate trust, allowing vulnerability and connection.
Our rational brain must intervene, carefully challenging fears, and directing new behaviors. Our overactive system may require exercises that soothe the misguided over-reactions. Our learned responses adapted with a complex environment. An occasional breach in the chain will not reprogram the mind. The changes come from repeated and attentive actions contrary to the emotional pushes from the past.
Within the confines of this system (emotions and thoughts), we may enjoy pleasure, increase effectiveness, and contribute to larger purposes. To do this, we must mindfully channel the complex sources of information, directing action to more than just survival. We must learn where we want to go and how to get there.
Our emotions are useful. Effectively processing emotions leads to a more constructive life, blindly marching to impulses, conversely, invites chaos and anxiety. Slow down, choose wisely, breathe deeply, and soothe the misguided powers from within.