A perspective I’ve been playing a lot with lately is that many of the emotions we feel are actually not ours.
Our emotions by nature are always changing. We may experience some of them as permanent states. But that’s either because we’re holding on to them or because they are so frequent and dominant that we forget to pay attention to the other things we feel.
So in a sense you could say that any emotion you have, is just a feeling coming to visit you. A temporary energy passing through your body which you can observe because it marks a change in how you feel.
These emotions can be “invited” to visit you by a wide range of different things:
- How you relate to people or situations
- How you relate to yourself
- How you relate to life as a whole
- What you eat
- Your daily rhythm
- Habits or hobbies which impact your neurotransmitters
- Even the sensations in your direct environment (pleasant smells, loud noises, attractive people,…)
What most of these things have in common, is that you can control them. By adjusting any of these factors, you yourself can determine which emotions come to visit you.
But there are other ways emotions can enter your body which don’t originate with you.
For example: We all have this one friend who is so joyful that just being around them makes you feel happy.
Or maybe you have met someone who is so comfortable with themselves, that you feel comfortable with your self just by being in the same room.
When that happens, is what you’re feeling your happiness, or is it theirs?
The answer doesn’t really matter (it might as well be neither 😉 ). My point is that when other people have a lot of emotions in their body, they have the ability to give some to you. And they will often do so unknowingly.
You can imagine the process like this:
You friend is always walking around with a shit ton of joy in their body. Perhaps more than they need for themselves, so they threw some of their joy in your direction.
You caught that shiny little ball of joy, let it inside your body, and now you get to enjoy it yourself.
Now imagine a room full of people (could be a big party, a school or a workspace environment), in which everyone is doing this at the same time.
Tens or hundreds of people, all throwing around their excess emotions at each other (and catching everyone else’s) like they’re playing some weird mash-up of volleyball and trading Pokémon cards. But with feelings .
It’s a weird way of putting it, but next time you’re in a group environment, you can easily observe this happening:
- The cheerful people will cheer other people up
- The motivated people will motivate others
- The frustrated people will complain and argue until others are frustrated
- The hurt people may hurt people
- Chronically shameful people may shame the ones around them
- The horny people offer their horniness to whomever wants to put it inside them.
And in most cases, we don’t even know we’re doing it.
But when you are not aware that you are playing this volleymon game, that means you can also catch other people’s emotions without realizing it. And they won’t always be fun.
And when you catch those emotions often, people may start to realize that you’re a good catcher. So they’ll start throwing more of their feelings at you. (Children are often great catchers, and in some extreme cases, people can throw so much of their pain at them that they’ll carry it with them for a lifetime.)
We all have some emotions we’re better at catching than others. And it’s good that we can do so. Because it allows us to be empathic and compassionate towards others. To take on some of our friends’ suffering when they need it the most.
But it’s important to be conscious of when you want to take on someone else’s feelings and when you don’t. So that when they try to throw a feeling at you which you don’t desire, you know how to dodge it.
Next time you find yourself walking away from an interaction with somebody feeling worse than you felt before, honestly ask yourself:
Is what I’m feeling really my pain? Or is it theirs?
If it is theirs, gently tell yourself “This pain doesn’t belong to me, I don’t need to carry it. Somebody must have misplaced it.” Then put it down.
…or you can just go back and kindly say “Excuse me sir/madam! I believe this pain belongs to you” 🙂