Powerful emotions. We are all susceptible to them. And when we experience one, it feels like being stranded in the path of an oncoming avalanche, as though we were a victim of an unavoidable force of nature. We even commonly refer to it as “being caught up in emotion” – like we are in no position to do anything about it.
While “being caught up in emotion” may be a nice metaphor, it is 100% inaccurate. In fact, the truth is more like the opposite of “being caught up”.
Experiencing a tide of powerful emotion may feel like being swept up in an avalanche – as it whooshes along it simply sweeps you along with it, giving you no chance to hide or escape. But this is a completely inaccurate and self-serving perception.
Sure, a powerful emotion may feel like an avalanche, but it actually operates like a speeding locomotive. As it whooshes past you, if you really don’t want to be swept along with it, all you need to do is step clear of its track! Yes, you may feel the wind from it tug at you as it passes, but you need not be moved from where you stand. Maybe not so easy, but simple nonetheless.
So the reality is that when we find ourselves being “sucked into or along with” a powerful emotion, it is because we are actually grabbing onto it! And once we grab on, we immediately find ourselves going so fast that the last thing we want to do is let go; I mean, who wants to be pitched into a ditch at 100 miles an hour? And so it is that if we don’t choose at the outset to step aside and let it whip by – but instead grab onto it – we soon find ourselves very far from anywhere we really want to be: mired in an emotion that is controlling us.
Such are the obvious power and danger of failing to choose to step off the track and refuse the “pull” of powerful emotions. But the greater damage caused by allowing ourselves to buy the story that we are actually “caught up in an emotion” is that it helps us justify or excuse our own emotional self-indulgence. “Buying our own BS” helps us convince ourselves that we are not responsible for whatever outcomes transpire, no matter how immature our self-indulgence or behaviour may be.
But there is a way to avoid being controlled by powerful emotion. If you are willing to forego such emotional self-indulgence, you have two options to prevent you from falling victim to an immediate strong emotion: you can choose to simply let the locomotive go by without touching it. Or failing that, if you find yourself clinging to it, you need not fear that you will be dashed to the ground at speed if you let go! Because once you let go of it you’ll realize that you were never moving at all – it just felt like you were racing along.
The bottom line: You always have a choice. Granted, it may seldom be an easy one, but it is always your choice to make.
Every single time you experience the tug of a powerful emotion, you can choose to either concede to the very powerful illusion that it creates within your own mind, and so fall “victim” to it – and then defend or justify your victimization. Or you can stand firm, clear the tracks, watch it rush by, and feel truly proud of yourself for winning – again.
You always have a choice.