The topic of emotions certainly became more dominant since Brené Brown’s Ted Talk and book on vulnerability. The world in general has shifted towards being more emotional and open with our own feelings. It may seem at times that emotions are en-vogue. As a researcher of emotions and a life-long seeker to understanding human behavior it has become my mission to understand what emotions are.
What are emotions? Chemical reactions in our brain? Social patterns that make us behave in a certain way? Cultural concepts that have been created over centuries in order to create a specific structure within our community? Or bodily reactions to hormones?
Emotions are actually all of that and are everywhere. This is where it becomes necessary to start having the conversation if it is important to control emotions or express them freely.
Let’s start with what it means to express your emotions freely. While we might think that expressing emotions such as compassion, love and happiness is a beautiful addition to our world, we might change our mind on the free expression of emotions very quickly when we look at emotions such as anger, hate & jealousy.
As human beings we have the great ability to understand that being happy is a reaction to the present situation and not a constant state of mind. Happiness is not necessarily the best emotion at a funeral and we need to show sadness in order to show sympathy to others. Increased heartbeat and perspiration before an interview can feel like we are in danger, but thanks to our ability to think rationally we know that this is not the case. As a society we have not yet been able to out grow our fight or flight responses, but we have been able to learn to understand and rationalize it.
Philosophers and scientist have tried to abolish the idea of emotions for centuries. The rational (therefore objective) thinking become the goal of any man or woman that wanted to be taken serious. In the meantime we have learned that emotions are part of the human being as much as emotions. They are both necessary and create a healthy balance for every human being. We wouldn’t be able to make progress and develop as a society. The recent increase of emotionality is overshadowing the fact that we need to allow ourselves to be rational human beings that we also are. We are not just a product of our emotions.
So why are we allowing ourselves and our surroundings to dwell deeply into emotions which quite often involve physical reactions and its effects within us? The trend of individualization has opened the doors to place more importance on individual emotions, but also the individual himself. A path that has guided many into a self-centered and seemingly dangerous way of life leading to a very lonely path and a path to selfishness. Emotions need to be seen in context and we need to learn to understand why we feel the way we do. Especially because if we are too focused on ourselves we will misinterpret interactions and communication. This can easily cause conflict, but it can also lead to ostracizing oneself. And isn’t that what we increasingly observe within our society?. People interacting just behind the safety of their computers or cellphones without real interactions.
Having a health balance between emotions and rational thinking is not just important in your personal life, but also in your professional.