Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

There are two assumptions, or stereotypes, if you like. One is that self-absorbed westerners talk much more about their feelings - their emotions -  than the rest of the world, and the other is that women do so far more than men. I could cite so many examples to contradict this, but I agree that there is a tendency here, so we'll let it go. As a woman I'm expected to have dozens of different emotions....ah......

I am generally considered to be a person who is not very emotional. I am aware of this, and I'm neither proud nor ashamed of it. I don't believe it's anything to be either proud or ashamed of. Got that? We're all just different.

However, if I say "I am not a very emotional person" all sorts of assumptions are made. That I'm cold. That I'm shallow. That, therefore, I have no feelings. That I must be insensitive. That I'm proud or ashamed of it. That I don't give a shit.

At the risk of getting very me, me, me here, I'm going to dwell on this for a bit, because I'd like to speak for all people like me. The movers and shakers. So that you understand. Please pay attention.

We are not "emotionally repressed". That is a different thing. That is being an emotional person and - somehow - getting a control of it. Rightly or wrongly, for good or ill. I don't actually think I could do that. When I am emotional, believe me, I have very little control over it. It just doesn't happen that often. Not because of any effort on my part, it's just the way I'm made.

I'm made solutions oriented, achievement oriented, and analytical. Aries. Londoner. Only child. High IQ. Individual genetics. Upbringing. Combination. I dunno. I have no effing clue. But this is me.

So, when you read a tragic story, and you cry, I don't. It's not that I don't care deeply, it's not that I see it as any less tragic than you, but my mind has acknowledged the tragedy, and has already moved onto "WHY?" and "How do we fix this?" or "How do we stop this happening again?"

People who don't know me well or aren't used to this, or whatever, can take it the wrong way. Additionally I fail to sympathize enough. I know, intellectually, that when people tell me their troubles, often all they really want is a sympathetic response. All too often what I offer instead is a solution. I know (I don't understand, but I know) that often people don't want solutions.

I'm going to get really personal now, because it may help, I don't know. Last time I had an argument with my husband (which is going back a few years) I did something they tell you never to do. I pushed away his hugs and kisses. And  I told him, I don't want your comfort, I want this never to happen again. I wanted a solution.

It's not that I don't care. I care very much. I believe I care more than average, in fact, because I'm a doer not a dreamer. But I forget that people would rather hear "Awwwwww" than "I can give you $50." I forget that they'd rather hear "Tsk." than "Well, tell her this...." And so on. I forget. I try really hard to remember, but I forget. My instincts are to solve problems. They say you should treat others the way you want to be treated, and that's where it all goes wrong.

Anyway, a few years ago, you all remember the scene in Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, where Ron suggests to Hermione that:

" One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode.” 

And he is told that he has the emotional range of a teaspoon.

Well, I relate to this. I have had "mixed" feelings before now, maybe two, but when some people list the different emotions they've had, all at once.....well, some of them I've never experienced in my entire life, let alone in combination.

You see, I'm not actually any good at feelings. To me they rank as a sort of disorder. No, I'm quite serious. I'm famous for having three emotions. Cheerful (99%+ of the time), sad, and angry. How many are there? Well, hundreds apparently. I think I've managed maybe 5 in my life.

If I were to start having more, or more often, or deeper, they'd have to medicate me. I couldn't deal with it. I'm just not used to being anything other than essentially cheerful, and have no coping skills for the other stuff. If I started having the emotions I see around me, I'd be in a rubber room.

Anyway, enough about me, and my lack of complex emotions (but remember, I'm not alone, and we are NICE people!) what exactly are these emotions and they do they afflict people?

Yes, I said afflict. Not just affect. I see suffering, great suffering. I see suffering in both the person with the emotion, and those they spew it on.

In fact I see many of the ills of the world caused by this.

Ah, you say, yes. Anger. That'd be the biggest one.

Weeeeell.......I think anger is a range of emotions, really. Not just one. At least, different levels, and different causes of anger. I'm not even absolutely sure that I do pure anger, or not properly, anyway. Or am I making that classic mistake of equating anger with rage?

I may be wrong here, but I think anger (or, at least, one form of it, I'll come back to that) is the feeling, and rage is the expression of it. Or maybe people feel rage. I don't know. I never have.

I've felt frustrated. I've felt impatient. I've felt annoyed. I've shouted, I've thrown things, and I've slammed a few doors. In other words, I "lost" my temper. But it always came back fast, and I wasn't really out of control. I've never wanted to kill anyone. Not really. I've said it enough times, but I wouldn't do it. How angry to you have to be to kill. How long can you stay angry?

Whatever it was for me it was fleeting. Very fleeting. I returned to the regular scheduled Melanie quickly.

And in fact when I'm really, really annoyed I go very calm and quiet, ask my kids (it terrifies them).

I am baffled and fascinated by people who get really angry over trivial things. As a people watcher I find myself spending a lot of time trying to analyze this. It's not just the short fuse, it's the big bomb. It's the lack of discernment between the small and the big problem.

I've had people get so angry at me that the ground shook, and my response (if it's safe to do so) is often "Did I burn down your village?" Because THAT is the level of rage they are showing. Out of all proportion to the "crime". Quite bizarre.

But what really fascinates me are those who get angry in text online. I mean really, really angry. Not just excited. Pure venom oozing from every word, absolute hatred, and deep, deep anger. With a person they never met, over a few words. WOW.

My reaction to a slew of things that others get angry over is "Hey ho". But that's a problem because I tend to expect others to do the same, and when they don't I'm just lost.

When you are not an angry person, and you keep witnessing anger, it becomes fascinating. I find all people-watching fascinating, but this one baffles me the most.

When I was 11 years old I had a music teacher called Mr Ascot. He was short and wide, with flowing locks of curly white hair. I think he was possibly quite mad, he was certainly eccentric, but what fascinated me was his anger. He would go red in the face and jump up and down. You've seen it on cartoons, but he really did it. And it was over such tiny things too. I kept expecting his head to explode. I bet he had blood pressure problems.

But if you'd told him to calm down, it would have made him worse.

And I can relate to that.

I am so rarely angry that it catches people unaware. But the last thing I need is someone telling me to calm down. Especially if it's coming from a person who I know to be an angry person. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

So, I try not to tell people to calm down because I think it's the wrong way to go about it. In person I tend to just give a look. I'm good at "The Look". In text, I often just ignore them, and carry on, sometimes I ask why they are so angry over something so trivial. It's usually trivial. The things we ought to be angry about (suffering, injustice, cruelty, war, poverty, etc) are rarely the things we do get angry about. We shrug those off (because we have no solutions) and get bent out of shape over minor things instead. Weird, weird species.

What came first, my laid-back approach to life, or my philosophy of harm? I don't know. They go together well though. Because when people are getting angry and I see minimal or sometimes no harm at all, then I ponder on why they are like that. I don't always have an answer, but sometimes I do, and it helps to understand why they are behaving like that. That, and only that, allows me to be sympathetic.

People who find themselves angry can often work this out for themselves if they analyze it. If they "count to ten" and ask themselves "Where's the harm." "Who is being harmed?" "How much harm is there?". Obviously the answers have to be sincere.

Is anger just a feeling? Is there more than one kind? Can you overcome it without repression?

I believe that anyone can make the choice to analyze their anger and by doing so diminish it. While emotions themselves may not be something we have control over, I do believe we can choose how we react. Even if it takes a bit of practice. I believe that one of the reasons I'm not an angry person is choice. Takes thought.

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