About Wanting the Experience of Particular Emotions, Part 2
The question on the table currently is this: what's up with our desire for/addiction to particular emotional experiences, and how may we work with that?
In the previous blog I suggested that this thing we call "emotion" is no more than a set of bodily sensations with a story attached to it. We are conditioned to leave our direct experience of sensation, I said, in order to think about the experience and make meaning out of it, and in the process we lose touch with our authentic nature and suffer within the "reality" that the stories invent. This time I want to consider the role of identity in this process.
The reason, I would say, that certain emotional experiences are so compelling and have the addictive quality that they have is that there is a "someone" having them. As children we learned how to identify with various aspects of the personality in order to survive; we learned how to be a "someone" who could manage this or that circumstance in such a way that we could get through the situations that our lives presented while somewhat insulated from trauma. For example, let's say that things were such within my family system that I needed to perform in some way in order to receive the attention that I needed. In that case I might develop an aspect of personality that is able to determine what the expectations are and push through to success, regardless of what my needs really are. Or if I was required to fail at things in order not to threaten my mother or father, then I might invent as an aspect of my personality an identity that overtly works to succeed but secretly sabotages all my efforts. We all have a number of these sorts of identities, and we move from one to another as our circumstances call for this one, then that one. Each of these "people" inside has it's own particular self-talk, its own set of beliefs--and its own emotional experience. If we are identified with an aspect of the personality then that person's emotions will appear to be "my" emotions, "my" experience, and as such will be the hardest thing in the world to let go of.
From Center (i.e., from the place that is outside of identity) then it is possible to see that there is no reality in the "emotion" the is happening, and that we suffer just because we believe some story that has been attached to our in the moment experience. When we are identified, however, this seems absurd. You probably know the experience of being identified with some piece of conditioning and unwilling to let it go. It seems so real, so true! And why does it seem so real and true? Because it FEELS real and true. This is the function of emotion within the conditioned system: to make a fictional world seem real.
We cling to our emotions because they are "mine", because they support us in being a "me"--and being a "me", for one who is in a state of survival (as nearly everyone is, despite appearances), is the most important thing in the world. So for example, do you know the bit of ecstasy that comes right before you get something you really want? Heavenly, isn't it? Most people will make great sacrifices in order to have that experience; some will go so far as to ruin themselves to have it (see the earlier blog on the #MeToo movement and the nature of desire). Why is that? It appears that we are willing to give away our time, to undermine our health, to neglect our relationships, and many other similar things in order to acquire the desired object--but is that really the goal, or is the goal the feeling we will have when we have acquired it? The latter, I would say. And why do we want the feeling so badly? Because then we get to experience ourselves as a "someone" and need not let go into the great emptiness that is our authentic nature.
Okay, so in terms of our addiction to certain emotions, this (our conditioned need to identify with a self that is separate from Life) is what we're up against. So what can we do? I'll address that at last in the next post.