It seems like they would teach you this stuff in grade school. Require a comprehensive understanding for graduation. What emotions are. How they work. How to work with and through them.
At the subway platform following my sTMS treatment today I returned to a book I started months back but grew frustrated with and left behind, apparently prematurely. Before I gave it the boot for what I perceived as overly generic and leading language, “The HeartMath Solution” changed my life. Or at least it changed the way I breathed for a while: into my heart, the authors urged, to increase my awareness of the body’s immediate emotional state. It proved to be a useful visualization when I was going through some of the worst of my anxiety last year.
I don’t get far into the book today before the train arrives, but I clung to this nugget to share: “Emotion” literally translates from the Latin as “energy in motion.” Emotion, they go on to assert, is primary, neutral stuff before it matures into something more definable, something like red hot rage, bleak depression, or thought-scattering terror. (Or love, I suppose. Happy Valentine’s Day, etc.)
The concept is empowering. It tells me that as I wrestle with troublesome thinking that has (by definition, it would seem, it is my head, after all) a personal — and frequently circular — component (“Did I really just think about my mom’s tits?* I’m such a scumbag. I deserve to be killed and buried under a pile of fluttering mommy tits. I wonder if they look like my sister’s? Maybe I have a mommy disorder. Or a sister disorder? Were those my sister’s tits I just saw? It must turn me on, why else would I be conjuring them like this? Wait. Was that a mole or a scar before? Tits! Did I really just think about my mom’s tits — again?! I’m such a scumbag. Sigh.“) at root it all boils down to bland material stuff.
The mind, as anyone who has tried to meditate knows, is constantly churning out images. Bizarre images, even. As unpredictable as a drunken monkey, as one branch of Buddhism is fond of calling the mind. Frequently remarkable and utterly bizarre images spill forth and swing before our eyes. It seems the quieter the mind gets, the louder and more raucous things become. (“Were those my mother’s tits? On a dancing goat?”)
An image of breasts may have innocently floated to my conscious awareness as images from the unconscious will do, without warning or reason. Maybe they were even a facsimile of my mother’s. But after that initial prompt the culprit behind my anxiety, self-loathing, and depression (should such responses follow. I’d much rather the image of your mother’s nurturing glands should soothe and calm you) was all me. I feel embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, and mull the issue, helplessly turning the image over and over in my head like a puzzle that must be solved. I’ve seen them now 20, 30 times (or, I suppose, depending on how you count ‘em, 40 or 60 times). They reappear before bed. Are back the next day. And reappear at the end of the week as I’m working on my delts.
I must be developing a syndrome. Why me? Why mom breasts? Because I’m a scumbag, of course. No. Not exactly.
What authors Doc Chidre, Howard Martin, and Donna Beech, present here is nothing less than one of the key principles at work keeping me gripped by this abundance of sorrow, anger, and fear. Thanks to the very materiality of energy in motion our emotions aren’t unfathomable, incomprehensible. They start somewhere (even when we can’t remember where). And only after they find a place to roost up in our attic do they start to change form, working to maintain our attention, to sustain themselves at our expense. Physics again. A body in motion.
Once established, these bugaboobies start telling stories.
We are sick because the breasts didn’t feed us. The breasts tried to smother us. The breasts rose above us. Disappeared. Demanded too much. Never stopped crying. Called us Jake (our name’s Jack). From the other room. Late at night.
Was our dad’s name Jake?
In short, the only thing I’m guilty of is observing leaves swirling in the street (or breasts swinging in the sky, if we really must stick with this metaphor), collecting those leaves, and freaking myself out to no end over them.
It’s been one of my goals for a while now, to stop collecting. Leaves, breasts, guilt, confusion. If you find you’re torturing yourself likewise, I invite you to do the same. The breasts (or leaves) will still be there when you get back.
* BTW, I wasn’t really thinking about my mom’s mammaries. I’ve never even seen my mom’s slightly imbalanced, round, C-cup, brown-nippled boobs. I dreamt about them. There’s a difference. … I’m such a scumbag.