Which emotions makes your personality come alive? This is a question that came to my sudden attention this morning as I was performing some household chores. Usually when I’m involved in routine chores, such as doing dishes or riding to a shop, I try to utilize the time for practicing mindful awareness but sometimes I lose myself in thought. These are the times when, as in meditation, subconscious matters that need immediate attention spring up in form of thoughts or emotions for me. I think this is the case for a majority of people.
So today as I was involved in chores, a set of imaginary situations where I was displaying righteous anger towards some people was running amok in my head. It took a while to become aware of it and I suddenly realized that this is one of the core emotions that makes my personality come alive – righteous anger.
And then I recollected another emotion that was doing the same function for me – deep melancholy, a kind of philosophical sadness or sometimes deep aching sorrow that racks my being. And then another emotion sprung to mind – delight – not the childlike innocent happiness, but a mischievous and empathy-blinding delight – the kind that elves are fabled to possess. I’m sure there are a few other emotions too that bring my personality alive.
So you realize by now that I’m not talking about the spiritual-type of aliveness here – the one that accompanies a very present awareness and gives a feeling of weightlessness and joy sometimes. I’m talking about when my personality or ‘me’ comes to feel it is really living the moment. The kind one might feel when partying or involved in experiencing our favorite emotions. The ‘hero’ of the story of my life.
When I become engaged in righteous anger, a part of ‘me’ really comes kicking alive. It feels like I’m really living my life – even though such anger is deep suffering. When I become deeply sad, I come alive. When I’m playing pranks or jokes upon others and roll in laughter the ‘me’ is alive. When I feel a deep sense of betrayal or victim-hood, I’m alive.
I don’t want to call the above emotions ‘negative’, because that is just a labeling we’ve come to give them after social and cultural evolution made them undesirable for a ‘stable civilization’. But we also know we cannot stay human without them. And they are also necessary emotions that help me take action, that help me get inspired, motivated, or get going.
The interesting aspect are not the emotions but the personality itself. These emotions make ‘me’ come alive and feel like I really exist and matter, on closer scrutiny, are also emotions that define me. In other words, the story has become the hero in many ways. I hope I’m expressing myself well here.
These emotions that make me alive because I’ve experienced them intensely sometime in my past (probably more than once) and since I’ve experienced them so deeply they have also added to the definition of my personality. So the events that evoked the emotions acutely for the first time have defined or re-defined the hero of the story. Hence the story is making the hero.
So what is personality in such a case, what is me? Am I a bunch of emotions and memories that strive to keep those memories and emotions alive? The reason why this question becomes important is because if we notice, our lives are a repeating set of emotions and circumstances. The events may be different but the circumstances and emotions that we come to experience are the same set. And every time we strive to keep those emotions from repeating, that very act is nudging us closer and closer to experiencing those emotions. And even though I hate some of these emotions, if they are making me feel alive then isn’t it desirable subconsciously for me to experience them again and again? For instance, if every time I become deeply sad and spend those moments defining philosophies of life and death, I’m deepening my set of values by those acts and hence also ‘me’. And I like that. I like to be seen as a philosopher, or a iconoclast or any other definition that I want to hashtag to my name. So now, in spite of not wanting to experience loss (because to feel sad I need to experience loss over and over), I am unconsciously moving towards it still because it makes ‘me’ me!
But in the last few weeks, I’m also able to see a certain hollowness in my ‘me’ emotions. I’m able to notice, partly only of course, the string of thoughts that are constantly spinning the tale of me even as I am experiencing these intense emotions. This is giving me a certain space from which to see these emotions and the story happen. This is happening probably because in the past few months I’ve had been serious about me and finally came to a point where I was taking myself so seriously that I’m seeing holes in the plot, the plot of ‘me’. Not that I’m able to take myself lightly now. Maybe that’ll happen eventually, I don’t know. But for now I’m able to get glimpses of the story/hero building as it is happening live. When I’m talking to someone, I can see how I’m using certain words or actions or emotions to nudge the events or people into my story or into hero-elevation that I’m seeking. The sense of emptiness that is behind this story-weaving process (that’s for another post). The interesting part is that I’m also able to see the story-building even in self-hatred that I carry.
Of course I can’t say that the personality or the ‘me’ is not important or is false. It may be false, but it is also required as of now because without it I cannot even make a choice to earn my living or do the works that I do. Unless there is a clear seeing that the ‘me’ is false, there cannot be a pretense towards the denial of my existing personality. I’m still getting angry, I’m still being sad, funny or many other things that I am for now. But knowing which emotions bring me alive is definite progress over simply getting lost into them.
So coming back to the original question now:
Which emotions makes your personality come alive?