Why do we associate pain, loss, death and fear with the intensity of emotions? What does this have to with our cultural conditioning? And what does emotion have to do with identity?
In our present culture, emotions are perceived to be inherent and in themselves - something to be feared as if they will engulf us. We won't exist as identities anymore. We feel lost as the emotions take over. We don't know what is going on. We have no control over what is happening.
Why is this happening? The reference point, the self, has gone. Without the self it is difficult to orientate in the world in the intensity of emotions. We want something solid to cling to, to hold onto in the uncertainty of emotions. This is the uncertainty of motion - when we allow the emotions to guide our behavior in the biology of knowing, intuition.
This knowing shows up when two people relate in harmony and understanding, without judgement or blame. There is just the knowing as it appears in the emotions. And when this is triggered all certainty is lost. Such is the nature of emotions and knowing. There is only what is happening in the moment spontaneity. Emotions and knowing just happen out of nowhere. We live in a happening.
From the domain of self and identity though, this process is very scary because it entails trusting in the relation, the biological and behavioral dynamic between two living systems two people or the environment. Whatever is happening, behavior, is adequate because it cannot be any other way than that. The self is confused however, because suddenly there is the experiential awareness of uncertainty, what is going to happen moment by moment.
For example, we may think: I want to get out of the moment because I cannot control what is happening. I don't want to feel and be lost in the emotions because there I am not certain about anything anymore. I am afraid of the pain, of the loss of my identity, of the person that I am, who I am, as I struggle to override the emotions. I don't want to feel the pain - the pain of suffering that is associated with the emotions.
This is especially relevant in relation to love and caring. This perception of love, pain, death and loss in relation to the emotions stems from the belief that there is an entity inside the body that is feeling the pain or loss. The self or identity brings this forth when suddenly he or she realizes that they are not in control.
The pain and loss thereby reflects a deep experiential understanding about life and death. Life is centered in the belief that we are in control - there is an identity that knows what is going on or what is going to happen. Death on the other hand, is the loss of identity. In losing our identity we lose certainty on what life is about or rather what we think or presume life to be about. This however, reflects a fundamental flaw between what we think life is about and what is actually happening.
We live in a happening. We do not live in time. The happening has to do with motion - the happening of motion. This motion appears in the triggering of biological dispositions. It is an awareness of our fundamental nature as biological beings. But we don't want to be biological beings. We want to be something other than that. We want to be important - that who we are and what we do matters. That who we are as individuals, separate from each other, each living our own independent existence matters in the bigger scheme of materialism, objects.
We are here to achieve, get results, outcomes - there is purpose to life in the acquiring of objects. This is how we learn to live in objective certainty. The more objects we get or attain, the more perfect we are as individuals. Who we've become matches what we do. This is the essence of identity.
Identity is created to give meaning and purpose to life. Meaning and purpose lies in an objective existence. The who is important. The who wants to be seen, validated in the eyes or perceptions of others. And if it is not validated in this perception, then it will seek to acquire objects - wanting or needing certain outcomes to happen to validate its existence. The who is in control and does not need other people for validation.
Validation is centered on an externalization of getting something or somewhere in life through the attainment of material objects and reaching goals and objectives. The 'who' measures itself against what is happening by 'others' perceptions and also what it seeks to gain from life in the acquiring of objects. The acquiring of objects can be abstract entities such as goals, objectives and outcomes or material, physical, objects.
The above is an objective construction in the myth of separation between an internal and external world. This myth arises from the perceptual illusion that there is a 'who', an identity that the self has that exists inside the body which is not the case. There is no 'who, 'identity' or 'self' inside the body. The body or biology is obscured. We don't see how we are and what we do as biological living systems.
There is more to this objective construction in an internal and external world - the image of identity. There is a direct correlation between image and identity as the self, the 'who' struggles to validate itself in whatever it does in life. Success for example, is measured according to what the self wants to become as an identity so that it will be validated in the perceptions of others. I've done this or that. I've achieved what I set out to do. Or, I am this or I am that and I have to live up to the image of myself - of how I want others to perceive me.
If the image does not measure up to what the self thinks it should be, a change in image is required. That is, the image has to fit with what is considered to be good, criteria, in the perception of itself and others (peers and culture). In other words, the image of identity has to fit with 'who' we want to be or who we want to become. For example: I want to be like them. They are loved, happy and successful. They are being validated and I am not. What is wrong with me? I will change myself so that I'm more acceptable.
This façade of appearing to look good is founded on the image of identity, of who we want to appear to be - an image that will be acceptable to others. I know what Im doing, who I am and where I'm going in life. I have my act together. What you think about me doesn't matter - emotions are being triggered. I must not let them see my emotions; otherwise they'll know that Im hiding behind a façade - an image of how I want them to see me, how I appear to the world.
In the myth of identity, it is assumed that 'who' we are is the most important thing. This is how we and others see ourselves. This is the reference point for living in an internal/external world. The who exists in separation to the external world. It is the who, the self, that perceives this external world and does behavior. And the self believes that what is external is separate from it, i.e. the internal world. The body that the self has is separate from the external world which is where people and other objects are perceived to be.
There is a dividing line between self and other, what we call space. This space is perceived to be an existential boundary that separates us from the world and each other. When this space is breached, we put up a barrier to protect ourselves - the barrier being a metaphor for fear and control.
This barrier protects us from our emotions, the intensity of love, pain, fear, sadness and even joy. Whenever an intensity in the emotions appears, the self puts up the barrier. For example: I must not let anyone see what is really going on. To do that I run the risk of rejection. They will not want to be with someone who is emotional and vulnerable. I must not let them see how I am - a fragile, sensitive, human being.
And what is feared most for the self is being in the range and depth of emotions that happen spontaneously - out of the blue. The self does not know what is happening. It fears the very thing that it is - an emotion. The pain and loss occurs when we feel we are losing something, something that is very dear to us. And that something is the loss of the self, the image and identity of who we think we are.
This loss is an existential loss, that we are losing part of our identity, of who we are. Without the validation of others, we don't exist. We lose a part of ourselves. This validation is essential to the image of who we are. Without it we are lost.
The pain and the loss is that of the self, the façade of image. Self, image and identity provides us with the certainty that we exist in a fixed and solid world that is unchanging. The self doesn't change and nor does the behavior - there is a constancy and familiarity about what is real and certain in life.
We lose 'ourselves' in the emotions. Once the façade drops, the self or identity no longer exists and what appears instead is the emotions. In the emotions identity and image falls away - the mask of who we are. We are out of control. Emotions cannot be trusted. The emotions are like a void waiting to swallow us up. Suddenly there is no certainty anymore. There are no objects as fixed reference points anymore in the dividing line between internal and external, between the self and the abstract objects that it has created. As the self disappears, so does the creation or constructions of abstract objects.
There is no sense of direction, no sense of who we are as we exist in time and space. There is only what is happening in the moment which appears as being eternal - that the emotion that appears in the moment will last for a lifetime. We see no way of getting out of what is happening. We want to run and hide from what is happening.
For example: I don't want to go there. I don't want to feel this. I want to run and I want to hide. I don't want to feel the pain, the hurt. I will feel lost and confused. I will lose myself. I won't know who I am anymore. How will I know what to do if I don't know who I am? How will I exist? How will I survive? How will I be validated? How will I know that I exist in the world? How do I determine or control my behavior? How do I live life?
In the emotions we feel afraid, uncertain of what is going to happen next. And the more we feel afraid, the more painful the experience of the emotions will be. We resist the fear and feeling the pain, the intensity of emotions. The more resistance there is, the more pain there will be. What resists persists, because that which we seek to suppress or control through the self, the emotions, is the essential nature of how we are as human beings.
Pain or the perception of pain only appears in the denial or suppression of emotions. If we validate what is showing up in the moment in terms of emotions, pain or the perception of pain will not appear. There is only what is as our emotions change constantly. There is a constancy within change that scares us.
It is scary because we are not in control. The emotions change constantly - they are dynamic and natural. But we want to fix them in space and time. We want to know when and where emotions are going to happen. And we know that we cannot do this. We know that we cannot control emotions, because we distinguish them as being unpredictable.
To live in the emotions is to live in uncertainty - not knowing what is going to show up or appear. This is the motion of behavior. It is behavior without direction, just the constancy of being in motion.
Living in this way is to trust in how we are as biological living beings - living systems. It is the biology or rather how the biology operates that guides the motion of our behavior as emotions are just bodily dynamic dispositions that happen as a result of what is happening in the structure of our bodies.
So why do we fear our bodies? Why do we fear the motion of our bodies, i.e. our natural spontaneous behavior? Is there a perception that we hold to be true, that is not?
To deny or fear our bodies is to deny our very biological origins as we co-exist in a web of life. This web goes beyond what we think life to be. Life or living is motion, behavior. The cosmos that we are a part of is in constant motion. There is a regularity to the motion. It is circular, constant. This constancy is the cyclical patterns of natural behavior that we do that show up as changes in the emotions - the biological bodily dispositions. We are coordinating our behavior together in the emotions. It is the relational orientation for all that we do.
To live and trust in the emotions is to live and be in the web of life, in the constancy and change of motion, behavior. Motion, behavior, is dynamic and circular. How we are as biological living systems is dynamic and circular, our behavior reflects that.
There is only what is happening in the now, behavior. And in the now there is motion, there is movement. All behavior is adequate as it being determined by biological dispositions - emotions that appear as different patterns of behavior; natural, spontaneous and circular.
We are part of the patterning, part of the circularity, part of that natural cosmological motion. We don't see how we are part of a much larger picture. We are inter-connected with every cell, every molecule, every atom, every particle that only exists in patterns of circular motion, behavior. It is the motion that we see as the web of life - the cosmos.
The awareness of our interconnectedness with the cosmos lies in the emotions, our relational co-existence. Emotions are the relational orientation for natural patterns of circular behavior, as we weave our behavior together according to our desires. Desires are biological knowings. The body knows what to do. And we feel these knowings as desires or intuition, natural and spontaneous patterns of behavior - the biology of cognition.
These desires are met instantaneously as we feel the importance of the knowing to do. We guide, help and support each other in the knowing without conditions. The most important thing is that the knowing is met and we feel its importance to life - to the sustenance of life.
Only in the awareness of how we are and what we do as biological living systems can we live together in harmony in the 'union' or unity with every living system. This awareness is our fundamental interconnectedness and relational co-existence that constitutes the web of life - the cosmos.
For thousands and thousands of years we have lost our way. We have lost the knowing of living in trust. Only with awareness and understanding can we recover the knowing of the circularity of life.
There is no separation. There is no internal or external world. We are not our identities.
We have lived in pain, fear and separation and we know these worlds very well. Our objective existence can trigger so much pain and suffering as we struggle to survive in materialism and worthiness of validation. There is another way. This way is natural - natural solutions for our cultural and environmental existence where we co-exist together in perfect harmony and congruency in the web of life.
© Copyright 1999, Ms Jane Cull.
Note: Most of the content of this article stemmed directly from personal experiences which took place from September to October, 1999. These experiences enabled a deeper understanding of the following references.
Cull, J. 1999. The Circularity of Living Systems: The Movement and Direction of Behavior, The Journal of Applied Systems Studies, Cambridge International Science Publishing, Cambridge, England.
Glufski, M & Cull, J. (1999). Conversations on identity, image and self.
Hughes, T & Cull, J. (1998). Conversations on identity, existence, life, change and behavior.