Why do we assume that emotions are simple? We feel them, so we should know that they are complex, wiggly things that like to hide at some times and explode forth at others and entwine with each other, breeding new and different ones. Yet, for some reason, we expect emotions to be solid and concrete. Why?
Think about a seemingly simple emotion. Anger, for example. We, as a country, are angry about the shootings at Sandy Hook. But anger is just the tip of that emotional iceberg. Below the water is fear that it would happen in the first place, fear that it could happen to us, sorrow that the families are suffering, hurt for the lives cut short, gratitude for the teachers that protected as many children as possible, sympathy for the friends and family, horror for what was seen that day by staff, children and first responders, relief that our children are home safe, guilt that we feel that relief, hope that we can fix this and stop it from happening again, and faith that those children and staff are in a better place. I could go on forever.
Under that initial anger in the example above are ten other emotions mixed in. Not to mention the scores of reasons for the anger alone.
And yet, knowing what concrete creatures we are, we a) expect others to feel the same way. How do we still expect that? We know we are all different and have different experiences and different points of view. It only makes sense that we should have different feelings about the same situation. And yet, somehow, we expect that we will all react the same way. b) expect that one emotion is going to be enough. If you sit long enough and listen to your heart as it talks to your brain, you will know that we are a symphony. Sometimes the drums, the primal, tribal, angry, loud, brashness of ourselves are at the forefront. Other times, the creative, whimsical woodwinds are at the forefront. But the whole time, the orchestra is playing the song that is you. And your loved ones are their own song.
Now, if we could all remember this, maybe-just maybe- we could all work together in concert. How glorious could that be?