Emotions on your front porch
When the next strong emotion comes to you, imagine that this emotion is an actual person who has knocked on your door. You come to the door, greet the person with your attentiveness, and almost immediately recognize that this person is in an “emotional state” and is demanding that you to feel that way too. Using your mental imagery, actually picture a person, appropriately dressed in some symbolic clothing, standing before you, and who is trying to get you to “buy into” their view of life. It is important to imagine that this person is quite outlandishly attired. You’ll see Mr. Anger, or Ms. Love, or Mr. Depression standing there. This is a “pushy” person who will not take “no” for an answer.
Think how you would react, in real life, to just such a person who “suddenly is in your doorway unannounced” and who wants you to feel the same way that he/she is feeling. This person will be going on and on about being in love, or this person might be trying to convince you how horrible someone is, or this person might be trying to get you to share a big piece of chocolate cake RIGHT NOW!
Practice saying “goodbye Mr. So-and-so” mentally to the person politely and then quietly “closing the door” while the person is still “talking.” It should be “okay with you” that they are “out there still” though now somewhat muffled, and you are attending to your other interests and not giving that person any encouragement by peeking out the window to see if they’re still talking!
Practice this skill with every strong emotion that you have today. Note how your use of this skill improves and to what degree you can “objectify” emotions that are strong or even overpowering. See if clarity comes to you about how you can handle such “events”, and see if you can “take your own sweet time” before you decide whether or not to “get into” this mood. And finally note if your “neutrality” and “live and let live” attitude shortens the duration of the emotion’s “visit”.
This exercise has these elements:
1. To practice using mental imagery to enable you to see an emotion as an actual, separate entity that “enters” your life-an entity that is a well known “friend” or perhaps a “stranger” at your door, but nevertheless is uninvited or uninitiated by you on purpose. The emotion might be welcomed but still have come unplanned.
2. To practice seeing that you have a choice on HOW MUCH to indulge in this emotion’s request for the use of your nervous system, your time, your energy, your attention. The purpose here is to give yourself an amount of “decision time” in which emotions are considered as separate from your consciousness that “registers” your emotional activities.
3. To practice seeing that there is a possibility that emotional events in your nervous system can be allowed “their own space” where they can “live out their lives” without much resistance from you. To practice seeing that they do not have to necessarily obscure the essential distinction between “the experiencer” and “something to be experienced”.
4. To practice seeing that “giving permission to visit” to an emotion encourages it to grow in intensity, to commandeer the services of the intellect to create reasons why the emotion is valid, and to last much longer.
Ask yourself,How often today was I able to have a strong emotion without being “swept away”?
Did I sometimes feel that an emotion was happening to me or did I feel that I WAS the emotion? Which way would I prefer to be my normal way of experiencing an emotion?
When I see a movie that excites in me strong emotions and is a wonderful movie, does it really matter if it was a story of love or a story of anger? Do I equally recommend movies to my friends-even knowing that my friends will experience the whole range of human emotions including the darkest kind? Why don’t I exclusively recommend movies that excite positive emotions?
Is it possible that I can LOVE to have emotions excited by movies no matter what emotions they are? Can I take my “real emotions” that I have in daily life and put them into the same category and see them as “theatrical” events that are projected upon a screen called my consciousness? With such an analogy as my working concept, does it matter as much to me whether I have love or anger or depression or compassion as long as the “movie is great?”
How interested am I in my life story? How’s the movie? Does it have all the elements: drama, pathos, laughter, transcendence, pain, success, loss, and fulfillment? Has any movie ever produced in me emotions as intense as those I feel every single day of my life?
If I perfect this skill, do I become more like an actor, a director or a producer of my life’s movie?
Would I pay to see my life? How much? Would I recommend it to my friends?