He Got To Me…
There is a wily Irishman who pops up every now and then in my subconscious. He is Fr Pat Dolan, our pastor at Most Precious Blood. This young guy is talented in a bunch of ways. He sings like a lark, plays the piano, writes a lot of the music for our masses and most importantly always gives homily that leaves you thinking. This week he really got to me.
He spoke of prayer and what it should or should not be. On the surface it is a way to communicate with some higher being or in my case God. In your case that might be Wall Street or Neiman Marcus but let’s just say it is a way of asking for something or saying thanks. Of course we have Hail Mary plays and we all have said,”God if you get me out of this I will never do it again!” The word prayer comes from the Latin, precari which is to beg or entreat.
The most interesting aspect is if you pray you express humility. I don’t have all the answers and I need help. In my case God doesn’t especially need me but I need him. In Pat’s homily he ended with the idea that maybe we should pray not so much for ourselves but for each other. There is a novel thought in today’s world. For the first time in recorded history of the Catholic Church the assembly gave our beloved preacher a hearty round of applause as he finished. Well deserved.
His words resonated more than usual. He touched something in me and I reacted. But what was that mysterious force? We call it emotion and it got me to thinking and I started doing research. It seems emotion has been a source of conjecture going back to Aristotle. What causes those deep feelings that can be pure joy or absolute anger or fear? It is instinctual.
Over the course of our lives we develop pattern recognition. We can’t treat every instance as new and so we delve into our memories, belief systems and biases to net a response to an event. It may glance off of us as irrelevant or it may smack you right in the face. When it hits us we have a physiological reaction. We frown or smile, wince or welcome and it happens without us thinking about it. Where do you think Emoticons came from? We take some sort of action by seeking avoidance or saying we want more. This in turn generates a feeling of displeasure or pleasure. Over time those feelings may create a mood and some may call it our disposition or even personality.
We all react to the same exact situation in different ways. You see love and I see fear in handling a rattlesnake. I like public speaking and it may petrify you. Because of our survival mode, the feelings of joy and laughter are the hardest to get to. We throw up road blocks of panic and loathing just to make sure it is not an adverse occurrence. Over time that may be dangerous to us both physically and mentally. Buddhists will tell you if you can shut out all negative thinking and let the good times roll that is the essence of life.
Some of us repress emotions as a standard of behavior generated by our family or religion or nationality. The Chinese over millennia have felt that excessive emotion causes damage to our body parts. Man, am I in trouble! Given a severe trauma our bodies shut down and emotional response and that is what we call shock. That is healthy and a way of dealing with things. But if we shut down too long we lose contact with the real world. People do that by overeating, by being overly obsessive or having nothing but superficial conversations. If we strangle and recess our emotions we are putting down life itself.
Finally we have to take ownership of our emotions. We are the ones doing the driving. Other people don’t piss you off. You let the situation piss you off. This or that person or situation has ruined my life. No, you have ruined your life. For the umpteenth time you hear me saying that the only one to blame for their lot in life is you. You bought the bad investment. You married your unbearable spouse. Every thing good or bad in your life is the result of decision you made. Nobody can force you to do anything.
Advertising today is meant to hit your emotions in the sweet spot. They know just what it takes to move you from disinterested to insatiably desirous of the last gimmick or fad. The political contests have focus groups and all sorts of psychological studies to tell them what works and what doesn’t. With the hyper development of the internet, ads can be tailored to you specifically. It is what helped Obama win reelection. Romney’s Republicans did not have a clue. Unfortunately for them they still don’t.
Whether it is some pol making a speech or your favorite sibling get your goat, they know how to push your buttons. They can create a siren’t call in an inviting ad or they can rile you up to the point of incoherence in your penultimate outburst. Cranial veins bulging and fists clenched they have you right where they want you. At least until you figure out the ruse and get control of yourself. Sounds simple on paper but it doesn’t always work that way.
People, in the coming months in addition to our normal panoply of everyday messages we are going to be barraged by every element of marketing. The candidates which I think both are incredibly suspect will be presented as the second coming. I hope you are strong enough and individualistic enough to shun convention and avoid an emotional response. And in the words of Fr Pat I think we ought pray for all of us.
Ted The Great
Emotions typically occur in social settings and during interpersonal transactions. Thus, in many cases emotions may be best understood as interactions between people, rather than simply as one individual’s response to a particular stimulus
Thoughts and behavior come from either a place of love, or a place of fear. Anxiety, anger, control, sadness, depression, inadequacy, confusion, hurt, lonely, guilt, shame, these are all fear-based emotions. Emotions such as joy, happiness, caring, trust, compassion, truth, contentment, satisfaction, these are love-based emotions.
Fr. Pat had to perform a wedding last Friday afternoon and then conduct a memorial service that night for a 14 year old boy who was killed on his bike by an 81 year old woman. On Saturday was the young man’s funeral followed by another wedding. What do you think were his range of emotions?