Living by Emotion
Let's talk about living, dictated by emotions.
I’ve been exploring motivation styles, and one that came up is called Reactive Motivation. This happens when we are compelled to do something, because something else happens… we only get the motivation so we can react to something else. To me, this feels like passive motivation. It’s not grabbing your life by the horns and being, by contrast, Proactive, which is another motivation.
Proactive Motivation gets there first. It’s the motivation to do something on your own, because you, on your own, feel the need. This is seen as the “ideal” motivating style by many, and by now, you’ve probably already made up your mind on which you are, and which you’d rather be.
Now, there are a few more styles, but let’s talk about these two: Reactive and Proactive and my reflections on what that means in our personal lives and society.
It might surprise you to know that we might (and likely do!) have both motivations within us. “I’m not reactive,” you say, “I take control of my life and don’t wait for something to happen for me to wake up and live how I want.”
You don’t say? Well, what about emotions?
Do you feel something, and then become motivated? Me too. Feelings often lead to behaviors.
I have spent much of my life hiding from my emotions, and the other part acting on my emotions. One part working with mere logic and flowing with societal norms, and the other, living through feelings, alone.
I couldn’t see my emotions for anything other than what they were. I couldn’t see how they might help me, how I could use them. I lived in a parallel universe to emotions (Proactive, or nothing at all). Much like from a bird’s-eye view, I couldn’t see that they were mine, and then have the choice to decide what to do (Reactive).
I couldn’t take them with me and use my judgement. An emotion, to me, was like this door that led me into an alternative world, without knowing anything else. I either saw it, or I didn’t.
Black. And. White. Proactive and Reactive.
Let me specifically talk about addiction and recovery. I think people might think it’s an extreme example, but you’ll see how you might relate. And think about how you can.
Many people struggling with addiction are black-and-white thinkers. Hard-cut. There isn’t a person that can be “just a little bit addicted.” To a struggling- addicted- person, it’s either all in, or nothing at all. Can you go back to your addiction? No. It’s “I’m in my addiction,” or “I’m not at all in it.”
Our society tells us to believe:
“If it feels good, it must be good.”
“If it feels wrong, it probably is.”
Do you think someone struggling with addiction understands this? The addiction feeds the “good feels,” even though the mind might say, in its righteousness, “this is wrong.” They may hear “this is wrong,” and then have a desire to feel good so they React to use again. And all is well in their world for the time being.
The truth is, when you’re in addiction, you can’t trust yourself. Your healthy mind is altered. When you’re saying, I know I need to finish this assignment, call this client, write that blog, visit my mom, or whatever else you “need” to do, you do it anyway, because you should.
You’re motivated either by the consequence of not doing something, or for the greater awareness of what needs to be done.
If there were ever a time that I didn’t want to do something, I would never have friends, a job, a husband, make appointments, move out of my parent’s house, take phone calls, take risk at all… It all feels wrong. This is my Proactive motivation.
The problem with building our lives solely dictated by our emotions is that we’re told to do it. We’re told to react to that intuition. You continue doing what feels right, or what you know to be good.
And it’s wrong. Because now you’re feeling the “shoulds” of Proactive life, but this Reactive mind is saying “but…” And now we're guilty and feel like we can't do anything about it.
We can live with emotions, but that’s not all. We cannot be dictated by emotions.
Hey, listen. You can be emotional. That’s a trait and a feeling together. And that’s awesome! So many people need more compassion. However, if you feel yourself jumping from feeling-to-feeling with no choice for what’s next, or involvement from that beautiful brain of yours, you need a time-out.
You can’t ask yourself, “Well, why is my life not organized how I want it? Why are the people in it fleeting and I can’t get depth in my life?”
Grab your life. Design it. Act on it. Fail. Allow yourself to feel bad about it. React on it. Choose to do and feel another thing. Repeat!