In my last post, Procrastination – More Than a Simple Act of Avoidance, I left you with the idea that the presence of specific emotions in us encourages or even makes action possible, while the presence of various other emotions in us hinders or prevents the same action. So where do our emotions come from—particularly the ones that make us act or, on the contrary, lead us to put off till tomorrow what we’d better do today?
Let’s start by first considering the following question series: What makes us angry? What makes us anxious? What makes us calm, serene, and peaceful? What makes us sad? What makes us joyful? In short, what is the prime cause of our emotions—both enjoyable and unenjoyable?
Whether I ask this critical question series to family members, friends, coachees, colleagues, or strangers, I almost always get the same answer. As a matter of fact, most people will proclaim loud and clear that the prime cause of their emotions lies in some event that occurred in their lives.
For example, Mary will say that her anger is caused by the insolence of her daughter, that her anxiety is caused by some sudden noises in the middle of the night, or that her sadness is caused by the loss of her job.
At first glance, Mary’s answer seems logical and realistic. After all, if her daughter had not been cheeky, if there had been no sudden noise in the middle of the night, and if she had not lost her job, none of her emotions—anger, anxiety, and sadness—would have seen the day.
This is probably what you think as well. However, this theory by which we attribute the prime cause of our emotions to the events of our lives must inevitably face two important challenges.
First, all people whose daughter is cheeky, who hear sudden noises in the middle of the night, or who lose their job do not necessarily and automatically become angry, anxious, or sad.
For example, when John’s daughter is cheeky, he depresses himself; when he hears sudden noises in the middle of the night, he gets angry; and when he loses his job, he feels relieved and happy.
In other words, if the events of our lives caused our emotions—both enjoyable and unenjoyable—then it would logically follow that a particular event would always cause the same emotion to those exposed to it. And yet you will most probably agree with me that this is not exactly what happens in reality.
As a matter of fact, before a single event, ten people may experience ten different emotions. That is what actually happens in a movie theater or a concert hall. For example, before a single film projected on the screen, some viewers will feel happy, some sad; some will be bored and others angry; and so on.
In Part 2 of this article, we will explore the second reason why the prime cause of our emotions cannot be found in the events of our lives.
© Chantal Beaupre 2011
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