Thursday, 24 January 2013

Curiosity and detachment from emotion

Imagine you are a cow with a ring in your nose and you are being dragged around a field by an emotion. Now imagine you are a curious scientist observing the same scene but this time there is no cow; despite this the emotion keeps on pulling and marching around the field.

Emotions are not good interpreters of a situation. For example, the fear you feel is the same when you think of a scary situation, you have a phobia and you meet the object of that phobia (e.g. a spider) or you are being chased by an axe murderer. The differences in these situations are not reflected in the sameness of the emotion.

However, emotions can be powerful experiences and demand you to embrace and act upon them. If you do embrace the current emotion (e.g. fear) you could become impaled by it. As you then fight to get out of the embrace the more the emotion grabs you. This excludes other emotions from reaching you.

How do you prevent being led by the nose by emotion? One possible way is by curiosity; be the observing scientist. Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this emotion?” or “I wonder whether another emotion or reaction is more appropriate?” Curiosity deals with what is happening in the present, it is open to alternative responses and as such is able to break the monopoly an emotion has over you. To be curious requires you to give yourself permission to question and allow the possibility that your current reaction (which is led by emotion) may not be the best one. Curiosity doesn’t detach you from feeling altogether but it does detach you from the grip of one emotion and opens up the possibility of an alternative reaction.

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