I’m an avid health and wellness coach, an aspiring writer, and a college psychology professor by trade.
I recently asked my students, through a writing assignment, this question:
If you had to sacrifice one part/ability of your brain, which would you choose and why?
The responses were mixed, of course. Everything from sense of smell, “so I could avoid stinky odors”, to sight and other senses, to speech, as “there are other ways to communicate.”
But there was an alarming number of people who gave the same answer: emotions. Hmm, interesting. Now, this was a quiet, private reflection assignment, so there was zero discussion or opportunity to confer with one’s neighbor, and still, so many of them chose to say adios to their emotions on their own accord.
Well, the typical reasons were things such as “so I wouldn’t have to feel sad,” or “to avoid being wrapped up in things I can’t control,” and even as simple as “life would just be so much easier.”
But that got me thinking…would it? Don’t get me wrong, I totally and completely understand where they are coming from. In fact, my innate reaction was “Word.” There’s been many a time when I would have loved to hand off my highly emotive limbic system to someone else, to be done with the heaviness, avoid the suffering. The pain. The loss. And, at points in my life, the debilitating brokenness that always seems just outside the grasp of conscious control.
And they’re everywhere. Especially for an empath like myself.
I am constantly moved by the daily mundane. The posts about a little boy grabbing the hand of a friend to walk him into school, or the video of a small village saving a cougar from drowning—these instantly bring me to tears. Even just the innocent and full smile of a child or the Budweiser Clydesdales commercials. I melt. Good tears, yes, but what these acts of love trigger in our brains is the part I think we all need to work harder to connect to.
To be able to pause, and, through love, start to take note of the beauty around us, amidst all the chaos. To begin to take care of our environments, this earth, its many splendid species, and each other. To listen.
But how do we do that?
It’s simple: look up. We need to get in the habit of scheduling our screen/device/social media time so that it is pointed and deliberate. The endless scrolling does nothing for our neurons nor our souls. In fact, it’s partially this incessant lock-in to media that allows us to avoid our emotions.
To an extent, it can be a self-fulfilling and reinforcing prophecy. Meaning, from the brain’s perspective, whatever feels good is naturally going to re-circuit so it can repeat and keep you alive and safe.
The brain is simple in that sense. Its job is to keep you alive. If social media and a consistent device coma allow us to avoid bad, “yucky” feelings, the brain is cool with that.
But we know better.
We know that, in the long run, we are only losing. We need to get back to authentic and genuine connections with other humans. To find our curiosity and patience. To model empathy and understanding for the little eyes watching and learning our every move. To be moved by something or someone. To feel the aftermath of changing someone’s life. These are the sensations we need to find and hold on to.
As difficult as some emotions are and as frustrating as it can be to feel as though they are outside of our control and not our choice, life without emotions is not an abundant life nor a life I would ultimately want.
Would it be easier? Sure. In some ways.
But it’s also these emotions, with all their messiness, sharp edges, and sometimes unwanted presence, that make us innately human. If we wipe out emotion, we level the human condition to the ground. And that’s not a life worth living.
For with the bad, ugly, and painful also comes the magic, joy, pleasure, love, elation, and connection.
In order to continue to experience the bliss I feel when I hear my little girls laugh, I will take the darkness as it comes, for it all serves a purpose.