Misplaced Affectivity

I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, enjoy them, and to dominate them. — Oscar Wilde

It’s been said that emotionally immature people are irascible, self-centered, or exhibit difficulty controlling their emotions in multiple contexts. Semantic debates aside, petulant personality types accentuate emotions that override their capacity for amicable and effective interactions. I would argue that super-normal emotional reactivity happens when other forms of cognitive development (i.e., critical or analytical thinking) are neglected. Nevertheless, strong emotions can be advantageous when properly siphoned.

Managing your emotions doesn’t say anything about one’s aptitude for “deep feelings;” rather, it suggests that the best use of any emotion requires self-regulation. Learning to create value with emotions by channeling your feelings efficaciously relies on the art of all things systematized. After all, other people’s emotional investments matter just as much as yours. Regardless of how emotionally profound, sensitive, or ethically justified someone might feel themselves to be, a level of discipline is necessary for cashing out on impassioned preoccupations.

Freud pointed out that the ego’s job is to realize it’s not the only id in the sea, and Lacan reminded us that you can’t always (or never) get what you really want. Although impetuousness has its neuroanatomical correlates, placing a cognitive buffer zone between activating stressors and behavioral responses can loosen the grip of an over-reactive mind. Emotional trip wires can be disabled or avoided altogether once the episodic memory bank is sufficiently scanned via contemplating a history of situational consequences. Preemptive agreements (e.g., Ulysses contracts) encourage the habit of strategic behavior management while accepting the liabilities of enthusiasm. In addition, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy comes with a wonderful heuristic for avoiding the fallout of emotional and behavioral temerity.

Strong emotional proclivities have allowed us to create profound art, literature, film, and music; but they’ve also generated culpability for incidents involving road rage, crimes of passion, and varieties of impulsive experience. Finding a proper geometry between reason and passion will ensure that gut reactions won’t overshadow everything above the neck. If you have a propensity towards untethered fervidity, behavioral science is probably worth investigating. That being said, establishing emotional equanimity doesn’t mean you have to be restricted to the affective range of Steven Wright as you walk through the gates in search of your remaining baggage.

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