I’m a worrier. It’s not something I choose to be consciously; it just happens sometimes. Everything in my life will be going fine, and then all of a sudden, a thought will pop in my head. It’s always some doubt or “what if” question, and it’s never something good. Then another one will pop in my head and then another and so on.
Next thing you know, my mind is bombarded with a storm of hypothetical worries, fears and doubts with hurricane wind speed, and I can’t tell what’s logical and what’s completely irrational. I start getting disconnected from the outside world around me as my anxiety keeps me stuck inside my head.
When this happens, I don’t become upset; I become numb. Everything in life becomes gray: every taste bland, every song overplayed and every smile fake. The world becomes a hopeless snow globe in which I’ll always be stuck futilely trying to escape.
When this happens, my mind is not a very pleasant place to be. Up until recently, I used to accept these thoughts as truths. I used to accept every worry and fear that infiltrated my head as a matter of fact instead of recognizing them for what they were – delusional and skewed perceptions of reality. I realized that, while this tendency to worry is a part of me, it does not have to dictate the choices I make in my life. It will only determine who I am if I let it.
The point of the story is this: We all have our own natural emotional responses to things. Some of us worry to the point of obsession. Others are insecure, get down and convince themselves that they are not as good as they should be.
Some people tend to get angry at the smallest of things and hold onto this anger because it just feels right to. And still others are so defensive that they have wall upon wall guarding their hearts to make sure that no one can see who they truly are underneath their fortifications.
Whatever the case may be, we all have our own conditioned reactions to life and the world, and more often than not, these reactions can cloud reality. The worrier doesn’t see that not everything in life has to go wrong and that sometimes we just have to admit that we can’t plan out every single little detail in our lives. The insecure person puts others on a pedestal. He or she doesn’t realize that each one of us has unique gifts and flaws. The angry individual doesn’t take the time to understand a situation before getting ready to throw on the boxing gloves. Finally, the guarded person doesn’t see that any human relationship requires making ourselves vulnerable and, because of that, means we have to take a risk in doing so.
Most of us are a blend of these different kinds of people, and each situation we encounter in our lives generates a unique mixture of emotions. Problems arise when we start letting these oft-misguided reactions govern our actions. It seems like our emotions make us unhappy.
We must realize, however, that while our emotions are a large part of us, they will only dictate who we are if we let them. In order to control them, we must understand them. In order to understand them, we must take a step outside of ourselves.
We must try to rise above them and get an eagle’s eye view of whatever situation we’re in. Once we can look at ourselves objectively, we start seeing how much our emotions are guiding us or how much they are leading us astray. Only then can we move beyond them and once again choose happiness.
Tom Barrett is a senior philosophy major from Colonia, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]