Many people are controlled by their emotions, whether they realize it or not. Emotions have of course a function, but all too often we think that emotions are telling us the truth about ourselves and the world. So it is not. Emotions can trigger thoughts that further influence our actions. Sudden impulses and unpredictable emotions can thus have far too much influence; if we do not rally acknowledge that we are not our emotions.
How many kinds of emotions are there?
Apart from specialists in the field, the average person might perhaps take a hazardous guess of close to 20 or 30 emotions with which we commonly associate. Did you know that there are as many as 90 definitions of emotions? – as disclosed by Robert Plutchik in his American Scientist article entitled “The Nature of Emotions”.
In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle defines emotion as “our body’s reaction to our mind” in amplified thought pattern(s) that consist of energy that is overpowering (pg 22, 36). Plutchik likens them to “feedback processes”.
Imagine this — the workaholic mind pottering away incessantly – fueled by its depository of past personal circumstances / experiences as well as things or experiences it desires in the future. Atop that, pepper in stealth emotions that have, knowingly or unknowingly, been on the simmer; then, factor in the limitations of language and one has at hand, the ingredients for one’s emotional cocktail mix of the day. Knowing this information, 90 is very plausible.
The Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion provides the names of some of the more primary emotion dimensions
A basic underlying emotion – Fear
Fears are emotions that occur in response to threats that are real or imagined, mind-perceived ones. In the former case, think of extreme sports like free-fall parachuting or rock climbing from which most would instinctively coil. The latter consists of psychological mind-perceived fears such as worry, anxiety, tension, nervousness, depression, addiction, and phobia, which are much more complex to unseat. Oftentimes unless their underlying problems are accurately defined, their solutions are often hit-or-miss, deluding their seekers’ of tangible answers.
Tolle mentions that psychological fear is fear that is not associated with any real immediate risk but one which constitutes a “part of our basic underlying emotional pain” (pg 35). Emotional pain arises from very human false self or ego-manifested time-related “anxiety gaps”. They often revolve around worrying over the lack of — money, cars, clothes, recognition, status, love, happiness, self-esteem; bitterness over life circumstances, how they wish it had been better; what they wish they had done or not done, and the list goes on. There is a lot more going on behind these scenes, e.g. the ego, the pain-body etc, to be explored in future articles, with Eckhart’s help.
How to tune in and stay in balance?
Can we control our emotions? Would it not be great to be able to access the anxiety off/on button to switch off the source that feeds one’s many insatiable wanting? No more worries and stress over things, circumstances, people but instead right to baby mode i.e. just with basic needs to be fed, washed, clothed, groomed, attended to and put to bed. Improbable as it may sound, to one’s inherent mind -filled and –controlled person, it is very doable.
Babies with their wide-eyed and wholesome manners, are always stress-free and operate very much in the present moment all of the time. In nature’s animal s kingdom, squirrels, deer, bears, tigers, lions etc gather / munch / hunt when hungry, eat, sleep and then wander around with hardly any stress apart from when predators or hunters pursue them. Thus, they live in the moment too, but can gear into action should danger arise.
Spiritual teachers and leaders alike, do not seem bothered with their lack of belongings or things. They involve themselves in relieving the stresses of the world but they themselves seem psychologically unaffected by the physical and mental suffering they try to relieve. Although the doctrines they follow differ, a common characteristic seems to be a call for the stilling of, the almost round-the-clock on-the-job minds of their followers, through prayer, meditation, chanting, and the like.
Despite the many challenging poses and sequences in various branches of yoga, its practitioners seem to be able to do them with great ease. The underlying formula to doing the poses is just to be mindful, and, present in the moment. To start, beginners will learn to relax and quiet the mind by purposefully paying attention to each inhale and exhale of their breath. Their practitioners will agree the minute they let their minds take charge,is when their poses or sequences go awry.
Take charge or take back charge of your life
In the Internet age and its ubiquitous presence, it is harder to switch off the dysfunctional needy mind but Eckhart Tolle has given his readers many simple and practical ways in which to do so, a few of which are mentioned here. Firstly, he suggests that one pays attention and observe the emotions in oneself as oppose to watching others. For example, if Molly has an argument with husband Jack, she should not focus her attention on what his demeanor is but rather, to watch her own manner in the episode.
Secondly, to learn to accept the “is-ness” or the current condition, state or circumstance, as it is, without fretting over why it should not be this way. Accept it for what it is and then take whatever action is necessary. Let’s say, Jane is about to lose her home or job because of the recession, she should accept that which is happening and take actions appropriate to salvaging from the circumstances. Stressing and worrying over it equates to wanting things to be different i.e. non-acceptance of the now situation. In fact, by being present and connected with what is, she will tap into even more creative ways to handle the situation.
Although time is factored into human lives for practical purposes, the dysfunctional mind is solely time-related and always flip-flops between clinging to the remorse, anger, annoyance, happiness of the past, or, the anticipation or apprehension about the future. That is how it sustains itself. Each moment the dysfunctional mind is forced to be in the now, depletes it of control over the person, while transmuting that power or energy to the deeper essence or being within.
One will know how and if these techniques work by putting them to the test. It takes practice to un-train old traits but if done correctly and consistently, one will shift from merely existing and surviving life, to, embracing and living life in all the brilliance it has to offer.
Plutchik, R. (July, 2001). The Nature of Emotions. American Scientist 89.4: p 344
Tolle, Eckhart (2005). The Power of Now. Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London.