Recently, my closest friend climbed the stage to address a gathering of doctors, and I, her closest friend, felt a deep pang of jealousy. But she is my closest friend! Was it not wrong to feel this jealousy? Should I not have been feeling happy on her behalf?! I had, of course, committed a grave sin by developing a negative feeling of jealousy.
Let us take another look at emotions…
An emotion is a feeling that arises from within our body. The terror over upcoming exams, butterflies in the stomach over a project presentation, excitement over a holiday, happiness over a victory, sadness over a death, and satisfaction over a job well done, are all feelings.
Our feelings are a result of chemical changes occurring inside our body. These changes occur based on the situations that we are going to face or have already faced. And situations are experiences that are sensed.
Take for instance, the deer that has sensed the presence of a tiger near its home. What happens next is that the deer’s brain processes this information to create extreme fear within the deer, which in turn, pushes the animal into taking flight. It is its fear that makes the deer run for its life.
In other words, an emotion is a signal from the brain that is pushing us to…
To do what?
The deer’s fear was its signal to run the hell away from its predator. Because, that is what a deer’s brain is coded to do. On account of our higher intelligence, we have amassed different codes for the same situation. This means that when we feel something, our emotion is call from within to make a correct judgement. So, when faced with a threat, we have the option of running away from it, facing it like the warriors that some of us think we are, or just bloody freeze, which is what I do, mostly.
Simply put, an emotion is a signal from the brain to make a judgement that is best for us.
So, what was my jealousy telling me?
Last year, my son announced that his friends were taking part in lots of competitions and winning lot of prizes, and he, was feeling jealous over the situation. This year, the kid won prizes in two of the six competitions that he had participated in. And now, he is feeling pretty good about himself.
His jealousy goaded him to work on himself, and it was his attitude that taught me how to read my own jealousy.
Since an emotion is feeling from within, it is obviously a signal to do something for ourselves. My jealousy over my friend’s achievement was only telling me to pull up my own socks. And so here I am, writing about how to read an emotion, after understanding my own.
Sounds easy peasy, does it not?
Hold on, things are not that easy though
Life can be quite boring without challenges. I mean, who would want to walk a long winding path without climbing a hill or two in between?! Likewise, our path to reading our emotion has a few hitches enroute.
The greatest challenges in reading our emotions are our thoughts. Because, we have a habit of running away with them.
Why is it so?
If you look around you and at yourself, you will realize that God’s most intelligent creation has a thing for finding faults. Faults in the educational system, faults in the government, faults in the wife’s cooking, faults in the mother-in-law’s presence, faults in the boss’s reprimand, faults in the neighbor’s attitude…we are constantly looking to blame others.
When we take another look at it, looking for a fault is humanity’s next step towards progression, because a problem is a situation that needs to be resolved. And it is resolution of problems that leads us towards better lives. Technology is a resolution to a problem, but we have now grown to blame it for our own problems. Why do we do that when we are the ones who have abused technology? The truth is we do not have anyone to blame but ourselves.
What has our fault-finding brain code got to do with emotions?
While having a big problem with everything around us, we dare not find a teeny tiny fault with our own superior selves. This human habit has become an epidemic. And it is this epidemic that is stopping us from reading our emotions right. Because we think that the fault always lies outside, and everything is clean from the inside. Well, turns out that our insides have a few dirty clothes to hang out.
It is this fault-finding brain code that makes us run away with our thoughts when we feel an emotion. When we drop the glass that we are carrying and blame the other person for scaring us, we do not think twice to understand that in fear, we could have held onto the glass even tighter. I would not drop a child if I were holding one in place of the glass, would I? I would only hug him tighter.
Our emotion is a non-verbal signal to take the next step
Our sadness over the loss of a relationship is a signal for us to take the next step. Which is, not sink into depression. And this can be achieved only when we develop the ability to reign in our thoughts and channelize them in the direction that is right for us.
Emotional intelligence is achieved…
…when we understand where our thoughts are taking us, and where we want to go. And this can happen only when we learn to read our emotions as a signal to indulge in some self-introspection. For every single one of our emotion – fear, anger, jealousy, lust – is a knock from within.
Emotions do not carry positive or negative vibes. It is our thoughts, and the actions that are based on those thoughts that do. And this is what I have learnt through the actions of an emotionally intelligent eleven-year-old.
Here’s to understanding our emotions, and our own selves in the process, for the best call is always the one that comes from within!
All of this is about emotions that are present. But what about when the emotions are absent? Find out in my next post.