Over the past few weeks I’ve become increasingly aware of how valuable our emotions can be for us. I’m not talking about letting your emotions out instead of bottling them up inside. I’m talking about their use as indicators of the unconscious, sign posts along the way to a better understanding of ourselves.
I recently attended a workshop on system psychodynamics which was, to say the least, quite enlightening. Besides the fascinating theoretical learnings of a new field (for me at least), the key learning I took from it was how the unconscious manifests in many bizarre and subtle ways. There were many times I felt my heart rate increase immediately after someone in the group said something I wasn’t sure why, but yet it happened. I also found myself responding internally (I wasn’t always open enough to blurt out what I was thinking) in ways that took me by surprise. Halfway through the 2nd day I started to get the hang of it and I felt as if I were sitting on my shoulder observing myself and the emotions that were rising and swirling inside of me. I realised that I didn’t have to be a slave to these emotions but could rather observe them and instead use the rational part of my brain to unpick and unravel them to see where they came from. The unconscious is a murky place, but when the prefrontal cortex is in the driving seat with the brights on and the amydala is strapped and gagged in the back, quite a few realizations float into the beams. The emotions surface along the road, flashing brightly, warning us that there is something ahead that we will (eventually) need to deal with. We can choose to ignore the signs, relishing the reckless speed and the throb of the blood rushing through the veins, but we shouldn’t be surprised when we go careening off the side of the road into a ditch of despair.
We are complicated animals. There are so many things we don’t know about ourselves (yet). There are so many aspects that we try to hide, or project away onto others so we don’t think we’ll have to deal with them. Observe your emotional sign posts and perhaps you’ll find yourself on an open road with bright blue clarity above you.