Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sympathize with Me: Only You Feel Your Emotions

Magnetic Fields - 14In my article Don't Be a Baby I discussed constructive ways to complain about one's problems and argued that complaining in the wrong way constitutes whining that will undermine, even destroy your relationships, which can be a very painful thing if you desire someone to help you with your troubles. Recently I've noticed another irrational trait related to this that can also undermine one's relationships, namely the assumption that other people can experience your emotions as well with some kind of sixth sense.

Made explicit this is obviously a false belief. We know other people can't feel our emotions. But the irrational thing is that many can often mistakenly adopt this belief in the heat of intense emotion without acknowledging it, leading to irrational practices and nonconstructive results. Emotions are very real things, and when they become intense it can almost feel as if they're saturating the surrounding atmosphere itself, making it "feel" like other people can sense it too. In times of negative emotion this can lead to very troublesome and destructive practices.

I've noticed, for instance, that when some people become angry they act in a fashion as if they were trying to pulsate that emotion in a beam and invoke fear and misery at whoever provokes their wrath, as manifested in silent glares and hysterically angry facial expressions. And in other instances I've noticed miserable people do all they can to put their pain on display and mope as visibly as possible, perhaps hoping to emit a magnetism that will attract the sympathy they so desire. These practices of course have never led to the desired end-result: People quaking in fear or rushing in to sooth wounds. Instead it leads to an erosion of relationships, people desiring to avoid these people or ignore their negative periods when they arise, or decay the substance of any association that continues with these habits intact long-term.

I single out instances of negative emotions particularly since I've noticed this is when the assumption is most prevalent. When we feel bad, we obviously want other people to know about it and react, and given how real intense emotions feel to us it can be easy to assume it feels real to other people as well. But this is not the case. People do not have a sixth sense for other people's emotions. All they can observe is the behavior that manifests as a result of those emotions, whether it be glares and dirty looks or silence and long faces. Depending on how you act consistently and how these people relate to you will determine how they respond to you, and most likely they won't be able to treat you in the way you desire if you don't vocalize your desires and instead resort to hoping everyone will just "know" somehow. Worse yet, if you consistently act this way when experiencing negative emotions then you'll undermine your associations by pushing people away and giving them a reason to avoid you when you act like this. In Don't Be a Baby I pointed out that the pains and troubles of life are not what constitutes happiness, and so the same applies here since people will want to ignore you in order to pursue their own comfort better.

Given how strong some emotions can be it can be very hard, but you've got to work to always practice your best judgment no matter how strong any urges rise from your emotions. You've got to think objectively and be explicit about your concerns and desires with others when appropriate, otherwise you'll just stoop in your negative emotions as people are forced to either guess what ails you or ignore you until you get over it.

I admit I myself have been guilty of acting in such a fashion, and during a working shift I've realized how much it was undermining my lovability goals. People aren't going to value me if they think certain negative emotions are simply a part of my nature by default, and nothing will be worked out if I keep silent about it. Only I feel my emotions, and it's my obligation to deal with them accordingly in order to be constructive.

The most significant exercise of this fallacy that I've noticed is a particular schoolmate who practically destroyed his network of friends by hoping the display of his misery would bring him the companionship he yearned for. In trying his best to extrude an aura of sadness and depression he temporarily succeeded in garnering some sympathy, but without addressing the root cause he eventually repelled most everyone away and brought upon himself the very aloneness he was trying to remedy. He never made clear his desires, so people were left to guess, and without addressing root causes of his emotional problems they eventually gave up when they realized he was dragging them down with him as well.

People can be a great help in trying to work out certain problems, but the most important steps and efforts must be made on our own, such as identifying the root of our problems, initiating the important parts of the solution, and verbalizing how we'd like our friends to help. As Benjamin Franklin said, I believe, "He who does not counsel himself cannot be counsel'd."

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