The egg and the hen of emotions

Last week, while I was eating breakfast with my family, I noticed a weird sensation in my belly. Some sort of anxiety. I sat and wondered where the feeling was coming from. There was nothing to be anxious about. I tried to be with it for a while, but I also had to continue with our morning routine.

Some minutes later, while I was getting dressed, my husband asked if our youngest had already come down to eat breakfast. I went upstairs to find her still in her pajamas and on her mobile. I took her phone exclaiming that it was confiscated for a week.

When I went back down, I found our son on his mobile while eating breakfast. I took it away and started scolding both our son and our youngest daughter for their bad habits. I was quite angry.

When I went back to the bathroom and calmed down, I realized I had been unnecessarily loud and surprisingly angry for such a mundane ‘fault’. It is then I remembered the feeling in my belly earlier and wondered whether my [over]reaction had something to do with it. Most probably.

Over the last few years, I have been fascinated by my emotions. We have a tendency to believe that what we feel is just the of what we experience in the outer world, but the more I observe and reflect on my own emotions, the more I realize that my emotional reaction to what happens outside myself is directly linked to my mental state.

The simplest way to experiment on this is with sleep or lack of sleep. I know that if I don’t sleep enough, I am more vulnerable and can either move into a space of anger or sadness in situations where I later wonder what the big fuss was about.

Another good experiment is in my role as a teacher. If I meet my students with a calm state of mind, the lesson goes smoother almost no matter what happens. If I come in with an impatient and restless mind, I often end up overwhelmed.

When it comes to emotions and feelings, we can really ponder on the egg and the hen. Yes, there are situations that awaken certain feelings in us: fear, sadness, happiness, and even anger. These are mostly impulsive, but I believe more and more that the intensity of these feelings and the way we deal with them are directly linked to our state of mind.

Sometimes, we have this underlying restlessness, sadness, vulnerability, or even dissatisfaction within ourselves that has nothing to do with what is happening outside, and whatever happens, will then trigger a reaction to allow us to vent out the pressure the underlying feeling was causing.

I think this is natural, but not always useful and certainly no fun for those around us. So lately I’ve been thinking that I would like to learn to recognize my inner discomfort and link it to my impulsive mental reaction to the outer world before I act or react in ways that affect others in a negative way.

This is useful for me, because it allows me to take responsibility for my own emotions and stop blaming the world for my inner state of mind, and is useful for my environment because at l do my part to keep some peace.

Easier said than done, I know.

The good news is that the other side of the scale of emotions also applies to this principle. If I make a conscious choice to meet the world with thankfulness, openness, and even playfulness, things seem to go smoother. I experience more positive things and feel more relaxed.

I leave you with a poem from David Whyte called “Sweet Darkness”, I always think of this poem when I am feeling blue:

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

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