The Stories That Drive Our Emotions
Emotions are the driving force of our behavior. They train our body to act and respond to the external environment.
We should know them very well and be at ease with them, they are our companions and our allies: they try to move us toward situations of safety and enjoyment. At times, however, it doesn’t seem so; it seems instead that they work against us.
Think of a person who is about to make an important presentation and begins to blush. His emotion is clear to the audience. What advantage does he get when blushing? Everyone can see this immediate reaction on his face and realize that he is nervous, and this certainly does not help the success of the presentation or the presenter’s ability to demonstrate confidence and to persuade.
Emotions are part of a complex protection system, which derives from the program that we downloaded in our childhood and have updated during life. It is based on the stories we began to believe before we had a choice; stories we heard from our parents and people around us; stories about how we should be, but are not; stories that we constructed to make sense of what was happening around us and that we have come to accept as reality; stories that our inner voice told us and maybe is still telling us to this day.
So, to simplify, let’s imagine that the presenter in the example developed an unmet need of unconditional love in childhood because his father continuously sent him messages that he interpreted as “you’re not good enough to deserve my love.”
Imagine that, in order to win his father’s love, the baby presenter adopted the strategy of accomplishing amazing endeavors to continually prove his talent. A fear of failure is built into this strategy, because failure would symbolically mean losing love.
This mechanism, which is so old that the adult presenter doesn’t even remember its origins, is encoded in his program of survival through the satisfaction of a need that was frustrated in the past and after thirty years still resurfaces.
And the man’s emotions are there to remind him that there is a fear, a fear of failure that underlies his performance, at least until he is able to see it for what it is, to understand it and accept it.
This is a possible story – that failure for the presenter will result in a loss of love that threatens his very survival. Each of us has created several such stories in the course of our life. The important point is that these stories are fantasies, not reality. And, more importantly, they do not reflect who we truly are.
If we put ourselves in the position of the observer we can capture the manifestation of our emotions and make them more familiar. We can also understand the roots of our emotions more frequently and better understand how the first years of our lives shaped them. Try to go back in time.
What was the emotional climate of your family?
Did your parents express their emotions or did they repress them?
Did they openly speak about fear, joy, anger, pain?
Did they help you to understand your emotions when they arose? Were you taught that some emotions should not be expressed?
We live in a society that has taught us that emotions should be hidden, we should be afraid of them or we should be ashamed of them. Despite this, we were born with them and every emotion plays an important role in our life. There are no positive or negative emotions, there are only signals that tell the body how to act in any given environment and circumstance.
Recognizing these signals, releasing their energy and using it to our advantage, is crucial to having full mastery of our lives.