Are You Guilty Of This?
Have you ever watched a movie, started getting teary eyed, then quickly wipe away your tears when someone next to you looks over?
Or how about this…
Have you ever been ecstatically happy only to then feel you need to take it down a notch so as to not make other people feel uncomfortable?
The common denominator among these situations is that in peak emotional experiences, we often tone things down so as to not appear too emotional. Even if no one is watching we ourselves can feel uncomfortable with very strong emotions.
Something I learned from Greg Montana is there’s an unwritten rule in society that a certain degree of emotion is good, but get TOO happy, sad, angry, or anything else and it can potentially make others feel uncomfortable. It’s common to try to keep things in a nice comfortable 6-8 level of happiness. If someone is really upset, oftentimes their friends try to make them feel better. If they’re a little too cheerful, they may subtlety (or not so subtly) get reminded by others that not everything is sunshine and rainbows.
The Downside Of Emotional Restraint
I’m the epitome of a ‘keep it cool at all times’ type of personality. You’ll rarely see me getting highly emotional in any way. The downside of this is that when I don’t pay attention to the times I’m genuinely fired up and pissed off about something, I’m missing a HUGE lesson.
That high degree of emotion is a sign that something I value is being touched upon. For instance, I get really pissed off when people make generalizations based on their limited experience.
An example would be when someone says “LA people are snobs!”
I want to say to these people, “Hey idiot! YOU live in LA! Are you calling yourself a snob? Are you calling me a snob and you don’t even know me? There are millions of people who live in LA, have you met ALL of them? Have you even met a majority (millions) of them to make a claim MOST of them are snobs? Can you really know this to be true?”
On the surface it’s such an innocent thing to say and yet it sets me off. Of course, I keep my cool about it, but I’ve learned to pay attention to that emotion. Through paying attention to what pisses me off, I discovered I’m committed to truth, empowerment, and enlightenment. When someone says something they can’t possibly know is true, I feel a virtue that resonates extra strong with me, the virtue of ‘truth’, is being violated.
Through this understanding, I’ve used that emotion of anger to drive me to do things like write and share messages to assist people in thinking about the stories they’re telling themselves rather than just sit around and wave my hands in the air being upset. That’s important to note because it’s not about passively being pissed off or happy, but using those emotions as fuel to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Your Emotions Are Your Greatest Guide
Similar things may get you pissed off, but for entirely different reasons. When you understand why things upset you to the degree you want to punch a hole in the wall, or alternatively see something that moves you to tears, you can better understand what you value. Maybe it’s compassion, justice, beauty, peace, hope, loyalty, honesty, humility, kindness, and/or something else.
Consider three times in your life you were extremely moved with happiness and three times you were extremely upset. What is it about those situations that moved you? What virtue could have been tapped into?
This will give you a starting point to discover what your most strong core virtues are. While you may have many virtues, the few that you’re hard-wired to have as a ‘priority’ will be the strongest force for moving you into action in making a difference in this world.
For more on this process, I recommend checking out http://heartvirtue.com.