Perspective vs Emotion

Glorious-blue-mountain-rangeThis is fundamental and has been said by many other far more erudite writers and philosophers, but worth repeating all the same. It’s good to reassess basics once in a while.

I’ve always felt that when we have emotions, especially strong ones, it narrows focus to a single point and totally occupies our senses, like pressing your face to the ground and assuming the whole world is made of carpet. Children exemplify this; when they appear to be completely possessed by an angry or annoyed impulse, they are not only having a feeling, but being the feeling. Evolution of our species has favored those who can shut out all external stimuli to focus on what is important in moments of crisis, perceived erroneously or otherwise. This doesn’t help for a heated debate.

Taking a moment, having perspective, is like sitting up, seeing that, no, hang on a second, there are walls, and a ceiling, and life isn’t entirely contained within this narrow point of focus. Seems obvious, like I said, but it’s a binary state that our brains actively endorse.

I feel if our faces are pressed to the carpet, and someone comes along and whispers in our ear the contrary perspective that, hey, there is more than carpet, it’s rejected on face value and without consideration (neurologically this makes sense, as our logic centers shut down when a cocktail of hormones flood our systems to aid the flight-or-fight response).

The human brain seems to be in a state of constant flux between the singular and the multiple. Emotional perspectives have a totalitarian hold of our senses, governing everything that comes in or out. Broad perspectives, nuanced by their very nature, lack emotional import and feel meaningless – the more perspective we gain on a subject, the further from it we seem to be, like being on a mountain range and trying to assess a village hundreds of miles away. We need both to have a clear understanding of the world, and too much time in either realm causes a dissonance with reality (whatever that is).

I think that keeping my brain in the middle is like riding on the back of an impetuous colt that wishes to perpetually drag me up the mountain. For some it’s the other way round.

light-beige_fNuance and broad viewpoints are things I am most fond of, because for me, emotions are often very spikey and hurt a great deal, and frequently cascade into masses of other feelings that are even more spikey, before descending finally into the maelstrom pits of panic attacks and depression. Therefore standing on the mountaintop and intellectualizing a given subject to death to avoid the attached feelings is my usual tactic. But I also have a habit of clothing my emotional perspectives in what appear, on face value, to be cast-iron intellectual justifications. The mountaintop perspectives appear to be the best ones. But I should not fool myself, because that’s all they are: emotional clothing, and not of substance.

There are lessons to be learned of course, elementary and often repeated throughout modern self-help culture. Taking a moment to breathe before responding. Carefully choosing language to encourage the brain into more constructive avenues, despite how clunky it is (“Your feelings are valid.” “I am sorry you feel that way.” “I feel xyz due to your actions”). Conversely, there’s importance in not invalidating emotions by constantly broadening our viewpoint ad infinitum so that all concepts appear meaningless.

Yet, it seems like the world I see has a lot of carpet in it lately.

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