Occasionally we encounter emotions at random. More often, we have no choice, because there’s something that needs to be done, or an event that impinges itself on us. But most often, we seek emotions out, find refuge in them, just as we walk into the living room or the den.
Stop for a second and reread that sentence, because it’s certainly controversial. I’m arguing that more often than not, we encounter fear or aggravation or delight because we seek it out, not because it’s thrust on us.
Why check your email every twenty minutes? It’s not because it needs checking. It’s because the checking puts us into a state we seek out. Why yell at the parking attendant with such gusto? Teaching him a lesson isn’t the point–no, in that moment, it’s what we want to do, it’s a room we choose to hang out in. It could be something as prosaic as getting involved in a flame war online every day, or checking your feeds at midnight or taking a shot or two before dinner. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you choose to do, because going there takes your emotions to a place you’ve gotten used to, a place where you feel comfortable, even if it makes you unhappy.
An interesting thought from Seth Godin in a post titled, “The places you go.” Makes me think about my daily patterns of interaction. Do I do things that make me unhappy because they are safe? Do I need to walk into these “rooms” (as Seth calls them) out of some need to generate an emotional state or do I actually need to go there because of my work/life demands?
It may require a little more conscious effort to better understand my own behavior. I think at times I am seeking some sort of emotional experience in an unconscious state — even if those reactions are negative in general. I can say that lately I may not be seeking out emotions on the positive side of the equation … and at the end of the day I know that without balancing the equation things get out of whack.