I want to add some things to what I said about depression yesterday.
When I first started learning about my emotions – what they are, what their purpose is – and listening to my own, I had repressed so much and pressure was so uncomfortable and painful that I became obsessed with them for their own sake. I guess that’s understandable. I didn’t realize they’re a means to an end. In and of themselves they are important and have a huge impact on our lives, but they don’t cure anything. Expressing them relieves the pressure – big whoopee – but the healing part comes from understanding the role they play, and responding accordingly.
Emotions are just like a car’s dashboard lights. When the gas light comes on, everybody knows that means the car needs something. The light is a symptom – so we can attend to the need and avoid breakdown. And we know how important it is to read the light accurately. If the gas is low, there’s no point washing the windows – or ignoring the light – or eating or popping a pill! And nobody thinks that by putting a blanket over the dashboard so they can’t see the damn gas light, the car won’t come to a halt. Everybody who understands cars knows what the dashboard lights are for.
But when it comes to us, we’re a little more ignorant, yet we operate on exactly the same principle as our cars. We designed them, didn’t we? We got the idea of creating early warning signals from the fact that that’s how we operate. We just didn’t realize it. I doubt Ford sat down one day and said “right, so let’s create a mechanism that mirrors how we function”.
Emotions are our early warning symptom system. They are caused by something, just like the gas light on the dashboard. They don’t come from nowhere. If we don’t fill the car’s tank, the light won’t go away. Until the car completely breaks down, of course. Same thing with emotions. Until we pay attention to what they’re telling us, they’re not going to disappear. We’re so good at ignoring them or suppressing them, or distracting ourselves from them, and somehow we fool ourselves into thinking that means the problem has gone away. But it hasn’t! Problems go away when you deal with them.
So does the emotion. The dashboard gas light goes off when you put gas in the tank.
We even have a built-in safety measure. If we ignore the problem, our emotions get more uncomfortable, and the pressure builds until it’s intolerable and we’re forced to listen. If we don’t listen – we don’t move the emotion and we don’t attend to the problem. Hey presto, depression. The problem with us is that we still keep on trying to ignore the problem. What’s with us, anyway?
I joke but I know what it is. We try to ignore it because the problem is always so damn painful. When I see now what I suppressed, and how painful the truth is, I’m not surprised I spent 30 years trying not to look at it. I’m not surprised I’m not the only one.
There’s no part of our make-up that’s useless to us – evolution dictates that the bits we don’t need fall away. We all know that. If emotions had no use, we wouldn’t feel them, and since as a race we haven’t used them much for generations, if they were useless, gradually they’d have ceased to be part of our make-up. Wouldn’t they? But the opposite has happened. The less we’ve been aware of them and used them, the more powerful they’ve become. We’ve had to become aware, it’s been a natural progression.
It’s got to count for something in the argument.
Moving on here. There’s one more thing: sometimes I’m not able to move my emotions, I can’t even identify what they are. I think I may be angry but I can’t let my anger out, or I want to cry and I can’t do that either. That’s when things appear blackest and most hopeless, when I seem to have used up all my chances, all my options.
I haven’t though. It’s not only the chemical imbalance caused by suppressed emotions that makes life bleak. It’s the isolation. There’s one option which in that moment seems as if it will do nothing, seems absolutely pointless, but it’s the only one that breaks the deadlock.
Reach out. Speak to somebody, another human being.
It reminds me that I’m not alone in reality. I guess it reminds me that love exists. And as far as my emotion is concerned, reaching out always unlocks it anyway.
I suppose right at the core of things, it’s all about love, isn’t it? When I’m angry it’s because I’ve been attacked or deprived or disempowered; when I’m scared it’s because I haven’t been able to find protection or get what I need; when I’m sore it’s because I’ve been hurt or I’ve lost something. Love fixes all those things.
And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve worked my way round to It’s not about the money. Cheshire cat grin.