The Economy of Emotions

by Jeff Saari

I have been hearing lately in many places this notion of the economy of motion, that is making each movement as efficient as possible.  So if you are weight lifting for instance, or running, you don’t want to waste energy in inefficient body movements.  Not only do you not get the benefit of the gains you want, you can get injured as well.  So I was thinking about how this may apply to the emotional world.

In a recent blog I mentioned how an adverse feeling like embarrassment can lead us to take actions like acquiescence, avoidance, going small.  However, when I ask people, these are not usually the actions they really want to take, so to me this is an inefficient way to deal with the strong negative emotions.  One woman in a recent workshop blurted out that is just seems so natural to purvey these ineffective actions.

Why would we do the opposite of what we want?  Very curious indeed.  Answer?  Because we usually don’t know any better or don’t know a better way.  But there is always a better way in anything.  My Kung Fu instructor just told me that after 40+ years of practicing he just learned something new from his master.  Very cool.

So the better and more efficient way  is this:  When you feel gripped by a strong emotion, stop.  Take a deep breath or two, take a walk, sleep on it, talk to a friend about it, go work out, eat some protein, take a break.  Sometimes taking what a client called a ‘calculated pause’ you can get a new perspective on something that is triggering you in the moment.  Let us not react to situations, but calm down and enlist our rational minds on the challenges we face.  Then we can choose what we want to do instead of react with an action that doesn’t support what we want.  Of course strong emotions are there for a good reason, but you won’t know what the reason is until you inspect it.

Why does embarrassment come up for instance?  Let’s say you are doing a presentation and you start fumbling your words.  You then get in your head and worry what others are thinking of you and you think you should be able to do better.  These are thoughts in your head that let embarrassment creep in.  Of course this happens at the speed of light and just seems to happen.  The our body catches up with the feeling and we get red and sweaty in the palms and then look to get out of the situation as fast as possible.  BUT, reality is that you were fumbling the words a little bit, that’s it.  We then ascribe all of these worries, fears, and obligations on it to be something different.  By reacting to the embarrassment we don’t usually get what we want.  SO…we need to calm down in the face of embarrassment and re-calibrate.  Take some deep breaths and focus on what you want to pull off.  If you can’t pull it off maybe you need more practice and next time will go more smoothly.

The economy of emotion is to calm down under duress and focus on the outcome you want.  If you fall prey to the emotions and purvey a negative action, learn about it so you have less chance to do it next time.  One of my students from the college told me after 3 months in my class that she doesn’t get embarrassed anymore, and she had a heavy case of it.  She is in the driver’s seat, not the other way around.  This is the most efficient and stable place to be.


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