Palate of Emotions: How to be Present
Updated: Mar 2
Let's grapple with the model above. These are a fraction of all the emotions that we experience as humans. We tend to label emotions as either good or bad, and it is that label that produces a lot of anxiety. If we believe emotions are positive or negative, then we miss the experience of being human. For example, what is the opposite of happiness? Most people would say-sadness. The result of this "dichotomous thinking" is that we move toward the perceived positive and away from the perceived negative emotion. I want to be happy, and I don't want to be sad. This perspective is a great way to create a lot of anxiety in our lives. It places expectations on the way we are "supposed to feel". When we say, "I am sad, and I want to be happy" we miss the purpose of emotion. Life is to be lived rather than be judged. Our job as humans is to be present with our emotions as they move through our lives. Allow them to move through us, notice them, learn from them and pay attention to how they affect us. It is our job as humans to be present with each emotion and to learn from them. Breathe them in, breathe them out, and know that they are a part of the human experience.
So what is the opposite of happiness or any other emotion for that matter? Look at the diagram above. The opposite of emotion is apathy. Not real apathy, but pretend apathy. Acting like we don't care when we do. Living in your ego, judging your emotions by using shame, blame, freaking out to control others, denial, or giving up (acting like you don't care when you do). The "Apathy Zone" keeps us from experiencing the richness of life that we all have the opportunity to live when we choose to be curious about what we are feeling and why we are experiencing that emotion.
A more useful way to look at our lives is to understand that H.A.P.P.Y. means Having A Perfect Presence (with) You and what you are feeling. When we are present with the emotions in our lives we can allow those emotions to move through us and experience them rather than judging them. We can live in the question about what this emotion is teaching us, instead of how can I avoid this feeling. Emotions are rich they allow us to know we are alive, and they can be great teachers for us about what it means to be human.