Defining the Emotional Self

As I continue to evolve, I am keenly aware of the importance of emotions.  If I’m not careful, emotions drive my response or my reaction to a situation, and typically, these emotional responses do not represent my best self.  Once, when my son played youth league baseball, my frustration and disappointment in the umpire, just a college student, as well as the heightened emotions of other verbal parents in the stands, led me to angrily call the person in charge of hiring umpires for our small town’s summer leagues.  Fortunately, this man was also a friend, one capable of forgiving me for my tirade over something so inconsequential to the world.  It was definitely not one of my finer moments.  Emotions, as I have experienced time and again, have incredible influence on behavior.

What exactly are emotions, and what role do they play in my life?  Within the category of emotions, great differences exist.  Some, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, are occurrences while others are dispositions.  Some emotions, like my anger over apparent errors of an umpire, are short-lived; others, though, like grief, linger or are long-lived.  Sometimes, we are aware of our emotions, but at other times, we are completely unaware or unconscious of the emotions.  At times, our facial expressions reflect our emotion such as surprise, and then at other times, such as with regret, our faces do not.

As I start to dig into emotions – the role they play in my healing – my understanding of the universe – my untangling of myself, I need to consider what researchers have determined as the three traditions:  emotions as feelings, emotions as evaluations, and emotions as motivations. What I have found at this point in my research, though, is a lot of disagreement among those who study emotions.  And, as I suspected, the study of emotion is quite complicated, but so incredibly important.

In order to understand emotions, I must recognize that they are (1) a key “part of core consciousness;” (2) reflect my “core goals and needs;” (3) categorized into negative and positive systems which either spur me to avoid a threat or indicate a chance for opportunity; (4) a way to “prepare and individual for action;” and (4) different for individuals base on their trait neuroticism (“Understanding Emotions and How to Process Them” at http://www.psychologytoday.com).   With this insight, I will be able to create a better framework for evaluating my own emotions as well as develop a deeper comprehension of how these emotions influence my behavior towards and my reactions to others as well as to myself.

My journey in untangling who I am as a human being has been long, but it has not always been intentional.  In fact, for most of my life, I ignored my emotions.  Today, I understand that I either self-medicate with food or I lose myself in taking care of others.  Five years ago, though, I promised to love myself enough to dig into or self-excavate who I am – to ask myself the hard life questions: what motivates me? How can I be the best version of myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually?  This quest has led me to the realization that I must understand my emotions, and often, I must sit with them, even when that requires me to sit with the most uncomfortable of emotions. 

And, as I define emotions in general, and more importantly, as I recognize my emotions, especially as they are occurring – as I explore the roots of my emotions – as I lean deeply into the emotions that hurt the most, then, and only then, I will be able to define myself.