Despite all our technological advances, isn’t life still full of mystery? One enigma is our emotional inconsistency. Some days we are the essence of centeredness and calm. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, we are quick to explode. We may be expert at hiding our emotional eruptions. But even if they aren’t apparent to others, we know (if we’re honest with ourselves) that our inner switch is flipped—we’re enraged, furious, incensed. Then we feel ashamed. We deny our feelings to others and our self. But do we take the time to ask—why does this situation lead to a sudden burst of anger?
Emotions don’t always give us “accurate” information about our environment but if we learn to use this unique internal software, we can benefit from our emotional data. Through trial and error, we can learn our personal “program.” We can repair any “faulty wiring” and analyze the emotional reports generated moment by moment. Then we can use our emotions as an internal GPS—a guide through the dizzying array of choices we face everyday.
This week, on two different occasions, I was uncharacteristically outraged. As I thought about each event, I realized that my anger was recurring –and growing.
My short fuse shows me that my choices aren’t working. In one case, I’ve found myself fuming after a prospective buyer is a ½ hour late for a showing of our home. Why such an over-reaction? It “shouldn’t be” such a big deal. Then I realize that after a year of showing the house, I’ve become more frazzled and frustrated with the endless trials of selling a house. My emotions tell me, “Enough! It is time to give up (for now).”
My other challenge is a relationship. I’ve tried to “make it work” but my reactions give me another message. I’m not weathering minor conflicts well. Each small struggle seems huge to me. I’m quick to feel outrage, to sulk, or brood over an injustice that, in other situations, I’d barely notice. When I think of ending our contact, my anger subsides and I immediately feel calm. I may argue that I “shouldn’t” let this friendship end. Maybe I “shouldn’t.” But if I’ve worked through my psychological blind spots (an ongoing task), my current emotions may discern more about a situation than I (as yet) consciously understand. It may be months or years before I finally comprehend what my unconscious emotional self knew all along.
I don’t like being angry. (Who does?) Rage is murder on the immune system and people don’t like a furious person. But anger gets my attention. It’s like a good friend who will tell me the truth, even when I don’t want to hear it.
All emotions send us daily data that we can use for better living. Are you utilizing the messages of your emotions–your internal GPS?