Imagine if you can put your swirling emotions in a crystal ball, then elevate the ball in mid-air before scrutinising them from a distance. What would it be like to be able to take them out of you and look at them from a distance?
I don’t really know why – maybe a result of all the buddhist books I have been reading over the years – I have been doing this mental exercise lately on my morning walks. I project my emotions a distance from me, imagining that I can twirl the ball and look at it from different directions. Somehow the mere act of visualisation puts some form of a virtual distance between my self and how I feel. It is a rather trippy yet intriguing experience (not that I’ve ever been on a trip before).
Even though it is just my imagination, this exercise has allowed me to perceive the invisible space between me and my emotions. I had always identified as my emotions, my inner pain and sadness had threatened to overwhelm me to the point of repeatedly thinking of how I could end it all.
As if I’ve just woken from an immersive dream, I wonder why I had allowed my emotions to take over my life, my living? It is a pointless question really, because I was not a person capable of separating my emotions from my self.
Still, it is an interesting question. Why, why do we let our emotions direct us? Think about the state of the world: how much pain and suffering do we experience because we cannot overcome how we feel. How many times: wars have been broken, people have been killed, children have been hurt – because of our unbearable emotions?
Our bodies can be really intelligent or really primitive. I have realised that my body/nervous system sometimes lives an almost separate life from me. How I feel at times is not rooted in reality. Like a stuck record player it keeps playing the same note over and over again. The body is intelligent because it aspires towards efficiency by remembering things for us; it is primitive because it remembers things we no longer want to remember. I feel like my body was once very very sad, and that’s the main if not only emotion it can remember feeling, so that’s the resident emotion I feel. Even if there is nothing objectively sad about my life now I still feel sad. Or at least the emotion I label as sad. I used to try really hard to look for the reason of my sadness, that it could be something I am not conscious of.
But I gradually learnt to be aware that it is really simple to colour our emotions. Just having not enough food can dramatically alter our moods and lower our emotional resilience. Just the wrong part of my monthly cycle can trigger suicidal feelings. Nothing much has changed in my life or in me internally between one week and the next, except I went from the follicular phase to the luteal phase.
If food, drugs and hormones can alter our emotions so easily, are they that real and concrete to begin with? Who is real: the person before being chemically altered or after?
Some days I wake up and I feel like something terrible has happened to me, or is going to happen to me. I eat breakfast and suddenly the world is radiating rainbow colours. I have learnt not to trust how I feel, which is the opposite of conventional wisdom but in parallel with buddhist philosophy. My brain likes to run its own programs, whether I prefer to have them or not. When I am in a good mood all of this is quite amusing to me.
I am a lot less unhappy these days, and my frequency of having overwhelming emotions have lessened considerably. Avoiding known triggers when I can is tremendously helpful. Because I am a lot more stable, I am able to look back at my past selves with some level of objectivity, if that is even possible. I feel a little disconnected from them, and there is some regret. I wish I have known how to get help much earlier on, or have known how to help myself (reading the right books are very helpful imo). Then I wouldn’t have wasted so much time being so sad that I was unable to live. I was like a sad zombie walking around with not many other emotions available to me, unable to experience the fullest possible spectrum of life. I wish I knew that it was possible to hold my sadness and yet not submit entirely into it.
Like just hold that sadness and all its accompanying emotions in a crystal ball and look at it curiously, from as little distance as I can make. Just imagine that it can exist out of me a little while. There is a seizable gap I perceive, no matter how small it is and how short the moment lasts.
I am not sure if this is just temporary – my capacity to put a bit of a distance between my emotions and myself. But sometimes, all we need is to see the possibilities of that little gap. Maybe the gap will disappear for a long time returning us to where we were, but the first time that gap appears, it opens up the reality that what we believed as a concrete state is actually malleable.