"I feel MAD because YOU hurt me!!"
"I feel sad because my mom died."
"I feel happy because I passed the test."
I feel [emotion] because [reason].
Explaining the causes of our emotions can give us a momentary relief from them. A sense of control, of meaning. It’s comforting, and can feel safe. But does it actually change anything? Does the sadness pass because you know it is from the loss of a loved one?
And what about those times we have no idea why we feel a certain way. The fogs of depression, or the sudden jolts of joy or pleasure that can seem to arise from out of the blue. What then? We seek reasons from science or medicine or mental health, we medi-cate or medi-tate or medi-ate based on the conclusion we draw about the cause of the emotion.
What if none of it makes a difference? And what of depression, or grief, or those other states that only pass with time or some other shift that seems out of our control.
The illusion of emotional control is an illusion of safety. "I feel... because…" gives us meaning, a sense of agency. Emotional freedom. Because is a fixed answer, and orients to the past. But our feelings, our emotions, are largely right here, right now.
(Note that trauma, as it is stored in the body, can bring past experiences and feelings to the surface suddenly, but even then those embodied memories are experienced in the here and now.)
When because doesn’t work, or isn’t enough, there’s an alternative.
I feel [emotion] so [action].
I feel mad, so I’m going to go running and exhaust all this excess energy out of my body.
I feel sad, so I’m going to give myself permisson to curl up and watch tv that helps me cry.
I feel happy, so I’m going to send joyful texts to my friends to let them know how much I enjoy them.
Because exists in the past, and in the thinking, logic part of our brain.
So exists in action, in this moment, and the future.
Emotions exist in the body, with physiological markers that can be discretely identified, if you pay attention. Pay attention to the sensations of emotion: heat and flushing, tensing, churning, buzzing. Emotion is embodied, and fluid, and often the easiest way to move emotion through the body is through simply moving the body.
Cold and blue? Take a hot bath, shower, or sit in the sunlight.
Angry and feel stuck? Run, punch, lift: let the muscles engage that tension, let your heart rate increase in healthy ways.
Feel like your emotion is ‘stuck’ somewhere? Stretch that space gently, slowly, paying attention to what wants to happen.
Our feelings are just another source of information. They neither rule us nor need to be ruled.
Let your body do what it wants with emotion: this one, and the next one, and the one after that.