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Essay: “On Emotions”

A short, very train-of-thought essay that helped me sort things out in my head.

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We are told not to let ourselves be controlled by our emotions. But that is something that is easier said than done. How can we just shut off, block out, ignore the things that make us human? No… Not just human, but that which makes us proper human beings. A man without emotion is nothing but a robot, a soulless organism that only looks to his own most basic needs. Such a cold, unfeeling creature would have little time to spare for the others he shares his world with; unless they can help him provide his own needs in a most efficient way possible.

But then I start to wonder if emotions and being ruled by them might not be as bad as a person who exists in the world completely devoid of all feelings and emotions associated with them. A man without emotions and empathy is a psychopath, but it is a fact that emotions can drive men to do terrible things. Horrible things in the name of love, their faith or simply as an expression of desire for something he does not currently have.

Should we then perhaps look closer at the potential evil in emotions and those particular emotions that can turn men onto the wrong path in life?

Let us first look at love. Love is one of those base needs that most people crave over the course of their lives. We are born into the love of our parents and when we grow older we wish to emulate this loving childhood by finding a copy of one of our parents to love too. On the way we might find other, smaller things to feel adoration and love towards, friends, pets or perhaps we have a brief teenage crush on some celebrity or singer. If we look at it like that, how could such a feeling bring about anything bad?

Well, there is the case of a love not being requited, where some people turn what is a personal tragedy into something more, by refusing this defeat and not accepting no for an answer. Or perhaps our parents were not the best and they did not give us enough love when we grew up and thus we do not know what to look for or how to handle ourselves when love enters our lives for real. We search aimlessly for this love without knowing what to look for.

Perhaps this lack of love turns us to replacements, something to fill in the pit we have inside our chests. Alcohol, narcotics, food, these are all things that are used to fill you up for the time being and perhaps make you forget that you’re not quite whole and well inside. Perhaps you even turn bitter and cruel and try to force your way into physical intimacy with others.

Perhaps you might take the expression “misery loves company” to heart and share your inner pain with others through your fists.

So, there are indeed many ways where such a pure emotion as love or a lack of love might do bad things to people. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being unloved to turn your mind to dark thoughts and acts. Luckily, many of us don’t take this pain out on others.

Then there’s religion, and yes I consider the expression of a faith to be a kind of emotion, a feeling of belonging in a community and sharing a belief in something. While not one specific emotion, it controls us just like other emotions. Like with love it can create an obsession inside us, where we do anything to continue to belong with the people we express our faith with. We might even feel so strongly about our faith that we force it on others, truly believing we are doing them a good deed.

That said, I do not deny that good things can come from faith, it can indeed be a great comfort in times of need and darkness…But it is a fact that faith can become something destructive if it is turned outwards onto the world and when those who do not share your faith are turned into enemies in your eyes.

My last point might actually tie into my first, for having a desire for something you do not currently possess can bottom in that lack of love in your life, which means that you fill the void with something else, like things you do not have. And this is where criminal behavior comes in. Though there it is not only a desire for things you do not have that drives you, usually it ties into gang-related activities and what are those but a desire to replace that love you never had while growing up, that solid foundation you did not have when you were a child. Your gang becomes your new family and the love you feel for this new family means you are prepared to do anything to remain in their good favor. And thus we find another emotion which can bring about bad behavior; loneliness and feeling like you don’t belong.

When you lay it out like this it is easy to see how emotions seem to have a rotten element to them, a flip side which only emerges when the circumstances are right…Or should I say, the worst, because it is my firm belief that we all are born with the same potential to do good or bad in our lives. How we turn out depends a lot on where we are born and how we grew up, what kind of people we had around us when we were young and who our role-models were. Who did we try to emulate?

But emotions should not be feared just because they can potentially make us do rotten things. We should learn from them, see how they affect us and try and identify the thoughts they create that which might not be completely sound. This might be harder for some than others. I was born with anxiety and that makes it easy for me to think the worst of people and assume they think the worst possible things of me.

But if we have a good solid foundation to stand on, family or friends who understand us, then it becomes easier to cope with our own emotions and the actions they inspire. Easier, but it’s never easy. Though I do not think that’s a bad thing. Life becomes more interesting with some challenges, some small trials to keep our wits sharp. We need our emotions in our lives, both good and bad.

As long as we have someone by our side to hold our hand through it all.

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