Throughout my entire life to this date I have frequently experienced anxiety as well as occasional bouts of depression. As a result of that I have been in therapy since I was three years old. So it would seem at first glance that emotions are something completely familiar to me. Yet I wouldn’t even understand a tenth of what there is to know about emotions, and this response comes as a surprise to many people.
Quite recently I was informed by a therapist that my anxiety is more to do with hormones including adrenaline, and that the emotions involved are very primal and basic, regardless of how intense they can be. After all complex emotions are not at all necessary for any living being to have “fight or flight” reactions and instincts.
In regards to understanding other people’s emotions, I can not go very far at all, especially given that I myself am not feeling or experiencing them. It’s not in any way that I’m not interested in how others are feeling. The case is a result of me not being able to read any body language whatsoever, and it’s also very hard to imagine myself in any kind of situation that’s outside of what I’m experiencing.
When it comes to my own feelings I don’t have to attempt to read body language. That is why I almost always talk about things from a personal perspective in conversations. However I still find it extremely difficult to distinguish different feelings I have from each other, to give them names and to know what kind of thoughts or experiences caused them.
Nowadays I understand that feeling an emotion means that I’m not at that time feeling calm. If there is an emotion present I’m feeling either pleasant or unpleasant, of which I can now name around four different ones under each of those categories. Though whenever I’m told that there are countless other emotions and different layers of each individual emotion (which is even more confusing) it makes me feel extremely distressed. I get distressed because I just can not understand the concept.
In 2015 a Disney Pixar film, Inside Out was released and when I watched it I was given a very helpful way to distinguish different emotions I have. Instead of thinking of emotions as being passing feelings, I’ve found that it’s easier to think of them as different characters within myself, and that they each take turns of coming to the forefront of the control room.
Another very interesting part of the film is that it shows that our internal psychology is a magical world of its own. There is a theatre where dreams are created, as well as individual islands with core memories. Then things get darker and quieter as we travel deeper into Riley’s (the character of whom the emotions belong to) subconscious and long-term memories. Also, when Riley was going through a difficult life event several of her emotional characters get lost within those depths. With her emotions all over the place Riley experiences depression, until they all end up together in the control centre again.
So rather than thinking of them as a junk pile of random mess, I now like to think of my emotions as individual sub-characters of myself that I can even name. When I meditate and do mindfulness it’s also helpful to imagine the psychology of myself as being a world that must be kept in order. Ever since I watched the film “Inside Out” I’ve found my psychological health a lot more interesting, and it’s also the same case with me doing exercises to maintain my mental health.
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