Middle French, Latin;1570-1580; < Middle French esmotion, derived on the model of movoir: motion, from esmovoir to set in motion, move the feelings < Vulgar Latin *exmovēre, for Latin ēmovēre; move, motion
Imagine laying back on a couch, in room adorned in calm colors and soothing lighting, a balding, grey bearded man scratching notes onto a steno pad sitting over you. You relate the latest trials of your life and he asks, with a distinctly German accent, “Why does that make you feel?” Not “what” or “how”, but “why”?
I have a wonderful therapist. Personally I think everyone should have one at some point in their lives (but more on that another time). As I spoke with her recently about a depressive moment, the question came to mind – why do I experience the emotions that I do?
There are many great articles on the purpose of emotions. They range in approaches from Darwin’s theories on the survival of the fittest to modern physiological understanding of what our bodies are doing during specific emotional moments to psychological theories on the steps and stages of emotion.
For me personally, they all boil down to two purposes of emotion: 1) to call attention to a specific person, place, item or event and 2) to call out a specific action or response – to set ourselves in motion.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy over the last few years treating my depression as a physical and chemical “condition.” I don’t think this is wrong and the treatment has been very productive. However, I’m afraid I’ve often done so at the expense of seeing my depression as an emotion; and even more damaging I’ve not really considered what motion would be the most appropriate response (except to avoid the trigger at all costs – rarely a practical solution).
Take the most recent episode as an example. Every pay cycle I have issues with my bank account – it runs out of money. I stress myself out over food, gas, bills etc. My lack of ability to do things and take care of business triggers self-loathing and depression; neither of which are pleasant places to which I would like to return. Admittedly my lack of financial management and my financially induced depression was a major challenge in our marriage.
So why do I experience these emotions? What purpose are they going to serve? Traditionally, they have only motivated a response of dwelling on them and allowing them to breed and fester in my mind. This time I’m trying a different approach. Instead of dwelling on them, I’m going to earmark them. I’m scratching a note on my own mental steno pad about the emptiness, hopelessness and energy sapping darkness that comes with them. Then I’m putting them away.
The temporary cure for this particular trigger is simple: payday. With funds restored I can resume activities, chase goals and visions, work on projects, “treat” myself or the kids to an extra dessert or meal out – all of these triggering “positive” emotions (mostly tied to my bent as a PeepP).
So my goal this time around is to pause at the moments when those opportunities present themselves and read my mental notes: in essence I want to give depression a new “why”, specifically acting as a counter balance to my pursuit of other, more subtly damaging emotional triggers.
Of course if this is going to be fruitful, I will also have to ask why I feel the way I do about the “positive” emotional triggers. But I guess that gets to be another blog post when I catch myself feeling them.
Time to turn on the light and get up off the couch!
Thanks for listening.