Wednesday, 8 June 2011

What gets you down? (Why do we feel the way we do? – Part 2)

What really gets you down? As in, honestly. And how trustworthy are our emotions?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find that I blame the wrong things for making me feel low.  I can be unwilling to admit, even to myself sometimes, the true cause of my mood.

For example, yesterday I was doing some writing when I got home from work, and started struggling with it and feeling pretty grumpy.

I know that I always feel that way if I haven’t eaten for a while – low blood sugar or something – but I don’t like to accept that it’s that simple.  Often, I ignore it and end up making a big deal about some other ‘problem’, maybe focussing on not being talented enough, or not having a wide enough audience – things which aren’t really the problem at all.  And, actually, aren’t that true either.

Fortunately, yesterday I realised what was truly wrong, saved my work and went to Tesco to buy something for dinner.

Then there are occasions when other people ask what’s wrong, and I know the answer but I’m afraid to tell them.  It could be something innocuous enough – maybe there’s a girl I like, or I’m missing someone, but I worry what the questioner’s reaction will be, that they might think I’m being silly or belittle my feelings in someway, so I tell them a different problem, perhaps that I’m tired or getting a cold.

I guess we all do that, and I suppose it depends a lot on the depth of the relationship or conversation at the time.  But I wonder if it might be better simply to let the real problem out into the open, at least if the person is a friend.  A problem shared is a problem halved, so they say.

The main thing, I think, is that emotions always have a cause.  They come from somewhere.  If we can get underneath an emotion, either through our own understanding or perhaps by a friend’s helpful guidance, and find out what events, actions and/or thoughts led to it, we can then begin to work out if that emotion is based on a true representation of the situation.

Am I really a dreadful writer?  I might feel like it because I haven’t got a writing contract, but neither have I tried that hard for one yet.  There are few hard facts that back up the feeling.

By contrast, there are many facts to suggest I might actually be good: I did well in my writing diploma; other writers are impressed by my work; my last boss always thought I was talented.  Clearly my negative assessment was inaccurate and so now I feel a lot better about my ability.

Whilst this example might not apply to many of you, I believe that the practice works in many situations.  Is my boss mad at me?  Or could he/she be tired, or dealing with his/her own issues?

Does that girl/guy really hate me?  Or could she/he just be busy…?  What’s more likely?  What facts are there to back up our emotional claims?

But yeah, you’re right, they're almost definitely mad at me, and she undoubtedly hates me… ;)

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