Energy (edited!)

You are jabbing at the keys on the keyboard, ferociously typing as if it were your day job. You can picture it now, the heart pounding anticipation that always comes when you are nearing the end of any project. Especially one you have worked on tirelessly, scraping the crust out of your eyes as you stagger around your bedroom disoriented, looking for your laptop. That thing in your mind that falsely communicates to the rest of your body that you have, ‘No time left’ and that this just, ‘needs to be completed’ and the emotion is a purveyor of pressure, crushing its victims, aiding anxiety in its quest by incessantly shouting at you,

“If you don’t complete it within the next 10 minutes, you never will! Go, go, go!” It screeches, immediately causing your heart rate to increase at the added pressure your imagination has created. That feeling is like the calm before the storm to you. Only because you know what’s next, the weight of the imaginary pressure lifts, your heartrate slows, and eventually slows, ebbing to its resting state.

As you propel your fingers forward, they ache due to the sheer amount of typing. Much like the last 12 foot of a race, the last push towards victory, where the end is near, you can see the ending, so to do you. Once the final words have been typed and the pressure lifts, it’s pure elation.

Relief, exhaustion, happiness, pride, and exhaustion wash over you, as this leg of the race is completed, and you settle into your proverbial ‘victory lap’ which to you is getting ready for the next theoretical ‘race’ and easing into the editing process. But much like the climax of any good plot or the comedown of any high; the comedown sucks. The same is true of authors, the editing process can either have one feeling like they climbed the tallest mountain, or like they fell as they attempted to climb.

It can be a sobering and uncomfortable realization, and it fills your head with self-doubt, but we aren’t here to talk about the next race. As with all things, one must keep in perpetual motion, ever moving forward, and even the writer is not exempt from this rule. So, you dust off that keyboard, keep going, and no matter how rough the editing process, think of those runners’ highs, and finish the race.

Among the vast amounts of things that could bring you joy, your mind wanders as you stare at the blinking cursor of the blank document, a brief flicker of a memory floats to the top of your consciousness as if it were a helium balloon. You struggle to find the thought and as you do, the full memory comes crashing through the walls of your mind with tremendous force.

You are a child; you’re watching your father adjust his reading glasses as you hand him a piece of paper. The yellow light from the table lamp glows, and you hear the steady inhales and exhales accompanied only by the near silent sound of paper shuffles and cushions being adjusted that’s coming from his direction. You are looking at the carpet, just below his feet in the “crisscross applesauce” way that children gather on the floor to listen to a story. You can’t really place why you are so nervous, although the benefit of hindsight has made you realize that your father’s approval (and the approval of your peers) is that which is your top priority, and you value it, label it, as of the utmost importance that it be acquired.

You pull away from the memory momentarily to shake your head and laugh at the frivolity of being that young and that naïve, and how for granted it was taken.

As you swim back through the memories of time to reach the moment again, why were you so nervous? Then it hits you like a brick through a glass window. The paper you had given him was something that you had written at school, and he was proofreading it for errors, as per the teachers’ instructions. He takes a deep breath, while you wait, your mind drifts between the memory and the present as you wonder why this memory has surfaced.

Your back in the memory, you can smell things in this state? You laugh at the stupidity, while in the privacy of your thoughts, you secretly admit that the scent of your mother’s favorite perfume wafts up to greet your nostrils like stumbling into an old friend and for a moment, you do smell it. It smells of a time long ago, of an era where happiness and joy were abundant, almost infinite.

When the memory is crystal clear in your mind once again, you hear the low, gruff sound your father makes as he attempts to clear his throat and announce with gusto the results of his proofreading, and my heart stills in anticipation as he says,

“Did you really write this?” In a tone you cannot quite discern it’s meaning, because as you recall you never could tell and you still kind of can’t (although his presence or judgement fails to strike the fear of God into your soul anymore) now. You look up, sheepishly, not sure what the results are as he keeps you on the edge of your seat, and you nod, carefully, as if you were made of porcelain and any sudden movement would cause you to crack,

“Well Madelyn,” he looks at you, hand waves and swooshing his hand over the paper like he was trying to swat at a fly as he searches for the correct words to use, continuing on as if he hadn’t kept me waiting in agony, an ocean of anxiety, he continues, “This is wonderful, you have quite a talent there, do you want to be an author?”

In the present, the question makes the lightbulb atop your head light up the dark rooms of your memory, light with recognition and understanding at why this of all the thousands and thousands of times your parents asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, all of the times they had both complimented your writing, and even your therapist trying to convince you of your talent, this memory was placed here, in this space, to remind me of what will always motivate me and what I know to be true and that is: I have always been a writer, I have always been an author, and the completion of a project, article, essay, or book will not only give me energy but will propel me forward to achieve my wildest dreams. Things once thought to be impossible and unattainable.

 

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What Are Emotions?

       The types of emotions we experience daily are so vast that psychologists are still coming up with theories about them and how our behaviors, choices, perceptions, and actions influence the emotions are felt at any given moment.

       In the 1970s a psychologist by the name of Paul Eckmen was able to analyze the vast array of emotions that are felt by people in all walks of life and even within different cultures. He eventually narrowed it down to six emotions that he felt were experienced universally. Originally there were only six emotions, as time passed and studies into human behavior have become increasingly sought after, he expanded the list to include four additional universal emotions as well, the list is as follows:

  1.      Happiness
  2.       Sadness
  3.       Disgust
  4.       Fear
  5.       Surprise
  6.       Anger
  7.       Pride
  8.       Shame
  9.       Embarrassment
  10. Excitement

Another psychologist that was instrumental in our understanding of emotions was Robert Plutchik, his theory involved a “wheel of emotions” that was similar in practice to that of the color wheel, implying that both colors and emotions can be combined (much like the primary colors) to form a feeling. For example, things such as joy and trust can be combined to create love. Despite Plutchik’s theory, in 2017 a study was conducted and one that was eventually published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, that seems to put forward the idea that there are twenty-seven varying classifications of emotions. Researchers found that emotions are felt along a gradient and have an innumerable number of combinations.

According to a study that was done by Jeanne Tsai at Stanford University shows that most people have the desire to “feel more positive than negative” but the emotions that lead to a positive emotional state often vary between cultures. For example, according to Tsai’s APS article, the positive emotions that “European Americans typically preferred [were] excitement and elation” while Chinese populations “preferred calm and relaxation more.”

As with any theory, there are many and despite Eckman’s theory being the most cited. the number of universal emotions that’s widely accepted as truth by most (if not all) researchers is that there are twenty-seven different categories of emotion. There are a few holdouts that believe there are even less than the six (ten if you add the other four), going as far as to say there are as little as three.

Personally, I don’t agree with that sentiment and I’m more inclined to believe that there are ten. It’s a reasonable enough number for it to be universal and experienced by all human beings in all cultures; twenty-seven on the other hand seems like too many to be universally had, seeing as all people describe emotions in a variety of ways. That’ also why I do enjoy “the color wheel” theory and like to imagine emotions as that fluid and interchangeable with each other.

 

What is the difference between feelings and emotions?

 

Emotions are a temporary state, they establish our initial attitude towards reality, and they warn us of immediate dangers and readies us for action. They ensure our survival in the short term. For example, and unexpected death in the family, a close friend who was in a bad car wreck, or our first reaction to a sister marrying that guy who you think is a douchebag, our initial reactions to things such as these. They also can be either conscious or subconsciously. Emotions can be extremely intense but, (and I’ll say it again because of its importance) they are temporary. Examples of emotions include:

  • Joy
  • Fear
  • Enthusiasm
  • Anger
  • Lust
  • Sadness

Feelings dictate to us how to live our lives, and they create the foundations of our long-term attitudes towards our reality. Feelings warn us of dangers that we predict, which is why anxiousness is said to exist within humans in the first place, as a survival tactic, only in modern society is anxiety considered to be a mental disorder. Feelings ensure the long-term survival of the self and while they may be underlying, unlike emotions, they can be sustained over long periods of time. Some examples of feelings include the following:

  • Happiness
  • Worry
  • Contentment
  • Bitterness
  • Love
  • Depression

I pretty much envision feelings as being aligned with personal values, because that’s what shapes your perception of the world and how you choose to interact with it over time. I think of emotions as being short-term and can be experienced either consciously or subconsciously.

If you’re still a bit confused, I’ll leave you with a near perfect explanation that kind of makes this essay obsolete? Like I could have easily just taken a few quotes from her and called it a day, and avoided confusing anyone in the first place (which believe me is understandable, especially given the complexity of the subject), do not fret for Karla McLaren, author of The Language of Emotions, has come up with the perfect way to describe the differences in one explanation that’s only one sentence, she describes it as follows:

“An emotion is a physiological experience (or state of awareness) that gives you information about the world and a feeling is your conscious awareness of the emotion itself. Emotions are always true (about something), but they’re not always right.”  

Feelings are the result of our emotions, and our emotions are our immediate reactions to external stimuli, helping to preserve the sense of self both in mind and body. If we begin to understand our emotions and the feelings that shape our world view, we can begin to understand not only ourselves better but other people. We can develop compassion and understanding for people that we don’t necessarily agree with, people outside of our regular social circles, and even form new connections and make new friends along the way, expanding our social capital. By fighting for mutual causes despite core differences in values, we can build a better society for our children and for generations to come. All we must do is try.

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