Emotions Are Stupid (Literally)

November 8, 2012

I heard a psychologist friend of mine deliver these lines to an audience once (I cannot remember it word for word, but here is the thought to the best of my recollection):

“Emotions are stupid. Think about it. How many of you have cried while reading a book or watching a movie? The book is a made up story; it’s not real! The people in the movie are acting; and we know they are acting! It’s not real. But our emotions are stirred anyway. Because our emotions aren’t smart enough to differentiate between reality and fiction. Emotions are stupid.”

I had never realized this. But he was so right.

We are human beings. And human beings have emotions (yes, even us men). Dealing with these emotions and learning to cope with them constitutes a large part of life. And yet so little time and attention is given to this subject.

Discouragement is an emotion. Frustration is an emotion. Love is an emotion. Excitement is an emotion. Loneliness is an emotion. Fear is an emotion. Being overwhelmed is an emotion. There are many others I could name, but you get the idea.

We encounter and deal with these emotions every single day. They are the threads that make up a large part of the fabric of our lives. And they are stupid.

Emotions can be influenced or inspired by circumstances, but are not tied to them.

Let me give you another example. Let’s imagine a woman having a bad day. An unexpected bill came in the mail. She’s going to have to tell her husband about it. She had a flat on the way home from the grocery store. The grocery store was out of the one item she needed. She was planning a huge surprise birthday party for a friend. Today she learned the friend is going out of town.

God created us with a certain capacity to handle accumulated emotions.

Picture a cup. The size of the cup is determined by your gender, personality, age, and character. The cup can only hold so much water, until it overflows. We can only handle a certain amount of emotions (frustration, etc.) until we overflow.

So our poor lady has had a terrible day, and each frustrating event has made emotional deposits in her cup. Her husband comes home to find her crying. Like every man, he cares about his wife and wants to fix whatever is causing her pain. So he asks the obvious question: “What’s wrong?”

Like every woman, she is not entirely certain what’s wrong. So she answers, “Nothing. Everything.”

She proceeds to collapse into his arms and have a good meltdown. This emotional release empties her cup, and after it is over, she feels much better. (This totally bewilders the man, because he hasn’t done anything, and in his mind, nothing has changed.)

Now pay close attention here: Her circumstances are still the same. But her emotions have changed. The unexpected bill still needs to be paid, she still doesn’t have what she needs from the grocery store, and her friend is still going out of town. If her emotions were tied to circumstances, they wouldn’t change until her circumstances did. But they are not tied to the circumstances, so they come and go, with no regard to plausibility, justification, or reality. Because emotions are stupid.

The better we understand these emotions and how they work, the better we can learn to deal and cope with them.

We must keep in mind the ignorance of our emotions, lest their sinister entanglements drag us down.

What advice do you have for coping with emotions? You can leave a comment by clicking here.