What good are emotions, anyways? I often feel like they’re just another thing about your body you have to manage. Can’t watch this show, or think about that topic, because it’ll make me upset and throw off the rest of my day. Can’t let myself get too excited because I get impulsive and say things I later regret. Emotions have the capacity to make good moments, great. But they’re also so prone to destruction. So many people have ended up injured, dead, with unwanted pregnancies, in jail, or otherwise ruined their lives because of one emotional moment. I dislike unchecked emotion for the same reason I dislike drunkenness. It takes away your inhibitions and puts you at the risk of ruin.
Maybe this is why I like the Vulcans from Star Trek so much. I had a couple attempts at being like them when I was younger. Calm, moderate, rational, intelligent. Sometimes when I’m at work and I’m trying to think through a hard problem, I imagine Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager is speaking to me, guiding me through the various issues I face. There is a safety in rationality. Logic can always be depended upon to be true, and I find comfort in that predictability.
Logic doesn’t make you do stupid, destructive things. And you’re never really told to keep your logic under control. Emotions on the other hand?
You’re not allowed to get angry. Or at least, you’re not allowed to express your anger. Because if you do you could get in trouble. You might lose your job, or get kicked out of class, or get kicked out of church. You might destroy a friendship. No, you hold that anger in, let it cool off. If it doesn’t, wait til you get home then punch your pillow.
You’re not allowed to show your sadness. Nobody likes being around a sad person. It’s so uncomfortable to be around, keep it yourself. People who are sad or tearful are weak, unstable. How can you rely on someone who cries under stress? They collapse under the problems of life.
You’re not supposed to get too excited. That’s childish. You get loud and hyper, and that’s unprofessional. It’s also annoying to those around you. Don’t be so obnoxious! The joke wasn’t that funny. Keep control of yourself! Nobody respects someone who can’t control themselves.
You can’t just tell that girl you love her! That’s creepy! You’ll scare her. If you want to show your interest in her you need to hint and insinuate at it. And don’t look so needy, girls don’t like needy men.
Throughout my life I’ve been dissuaded from showing strong emotion. I was implicitly taught by everyone around me to stay neutral. It was OK to be happy but don’t be obnoxious. If you’re going to be a downer then either shut up or go somewhere else. Stop sulking. Show the feelings that everyone wants you to show.
This, plus my natural propensity toward anxiety and depression, has resulted in me having rather dull, weak emotions most of the time. I feel happiness, but not joy. I feel sadness, but not devastation. I feel anger, but not rage. About the only emotion of mine that hasn’t been blunted is amusement. I might be one of the loudest, hardest laughers you know. Sometimes a joke will hit me in just the right way and I will cry with laughter. People will start saying “It wasn’t that funny…” but for me it really was.
Part of the overarching maturation process of my late 20s is connecting with those emotions more. Letting myself experience them more fully. Are strong emotions scary? Absolutely. I don’t know what they’ll make me do. But those strong emotions, even the negative ones, make me feel alive. Anger, devastation, ecstasy (the feeling not the drug) – these things I feel so viscerally, they are brief periods where I am experiencing my humanity.
And like my favorite Star Trek character Commander Data, what I want is to be human. I’ve been an android for 27 years. I’ve gone through all the meaningful things I can as an android.
Emotion is tactical. It fuels motivation for action. Dull emotions lead to dull behavior. Strong emotion can change the world, when channeled correctly. Where I fail is by refusing to channel emotional energy, and instead trying to wait it out or bleed it off like water in a tank. With my mind guiding me to know how far is too far, how much risk is acceptable risk, there’s no reason why I can’t let myself more fully experience my own feelings.
In friendly settings, effuse happiness is a gift for you and everyone around you.
Anger can lead you to correct injustices or change broken habits. Godly anger is a thing. Look up the term “righteous indignation.”
Sadness doesn’t go away until you let yourself go through it. It’s often appropriate to be sad. Crying is remarkably cathartic.
Love is the ultimate gamble. When rejected, it’s like the sky has fallen. When accepted, it’s like there’s nothing impossible.
I can only wonder how much of my existence has been sub-optimal because of my limited emotional experience. I wonder how much more beautiful I can make my own existence by taking greater advantage of it now.