Because I have, with curiosity, observed my emotions and the emotions of people I serve as a therapist for over thirty five years, I have come to believe that our emotions are really the basic source of what we can rely on as guiding truth.
Sometimes when we get in touch with an emotion such as sorrow or anger, that has been buried, there is a flood of emotional energy released that can be very liberating.
It seems in those moments we touch down into the wellspring of sincere expression of emotional truth.
But in my work with people and in my own life, I try to foster a stance of trying to be aware of our moment-to-moment emotional truth as much as possible, every moment of the day.
Living in this very complex, demanding, stratified modern society has produced an epidemic of personal alienation. There is often a tragic gulf between our emotional experience and our awareness of it.
The famous age of reason dictum “I think therefore I am” also shows how the role of science and the life of the mind permeates our lives, and relegates emotional experience to the realm of an irrationality that can’t be trusted.
I believe that every word, image, dream, hallucination, memory, bodily movement and facial expression is born, is actually created out of the ever present underlying mammalian flow of subjective, pre-symbolized emotional experience.
If that is true, then the accuracy of our symbolic meaning-making processes of word and imagery formation that we develop in childhood, hold the keys to us either truly knowing our second-by-second emotional truth, or experiencing a distorted version of it.
Do the word and imagery stories we tell ourselves accurately capture the emotional truth that has sparked them into life?
How can we for example, tell ourselves and others we are feeling happy when we are in fact desperately lonely or afraid?
We distort and lose our emotional truth when we repress it, bury it, avoid it.
When we self-medicate, it is always to not experience the full force of our emotions.
One in five Americans are now taking a psychiatric medication.
One in four women are now taking a psychiatric medication.
All of those medications suppress, modify, or block emotion. They are designed to do that.
Millions of us take other drugs, both prescribed and illegal, and drink alcohol to numb or avoid our emotions.
We compulsively gamble, eat, work, watch TV, live on Facebook, watch porn, live in our heads, and have unrelated sex to avoid our emotions.
Fear, shame, guilt, hatred, boredom, rage, grief, hopelessness, self hatred, loneliness, panic, abandonment, and desperation are all emotions we often don’t want to experience.
We so often don’t want to name, claim, express or endure these so-called negative emotions.
If we consciously run from them or unconsciously repress and deny/distort them, we lose touch with what is true about our lives.
But if we run from them or distort them, we become detached from that emotional wellspring that is also the source of joy, love, excitement, bliss, ecstasy, serenity, peace, wonder and awe.
So, tapping into the flowing currents of our ever present emotional truth takes courage- and self love.
Real freedom is living moment by moment in our emotional truth, because in that deep end of the pool we can say “yes” and “no” to who and what we want and don’t want in our lives.
I love to help people be able to more fully feel and express and live their emotional truths. To the extent I can live that way myself, I feel fulfilled. It’s a daily challenge.
Life is short. We can get it right for ourselves. One day at a time. Freedom is possible.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.