Emotions – The Mask of Our Shadows
Emotions— Our mental state is something that is no stranger to us. It is how we truly feel inside; something that cannot be rationalized with logic and wields the ability to make or break your day. Though it is something innate within us, are we truly in touch with them? Sounds like a ridiculous question, but self-awareness is something that is not often honed by society.
If I’m being honest, a massive writer’s block has struck me for the past several months. Writing has lost its ‘oomph’ for me as I descended onto a path of confusion, wondering why I even got into writing in the first place. That’s when I had an epiphany.
For me, writing is where I get to express myself emotionally, to reflect on life and all its trials and tribulations. Most of us rarely grab the opportunity to take a step back from the fast-paced world we live in, and truly take a moment to check-in with our well-being.
Navigating life is a challenging terrain to venture onto: with the expectations of needing to balance work, enjoyment, family, friends and other commitments. Yet, it is no stranger that every one of us have varying capabilities and obstacles to tackle in the game of life.
Be it friends, family or acquaintances, a common occurence that I noticed is that people often don’t have an outlet to express themselves emotionally. As an empath, I can sense the tension present in a room or feel the emotions of others. It can be overwhelming, especially in times when I see a loved one experiencing a breakdown after a long day; a surge of emotions flowing out after being suppressed for weeks or months.
And then you start to question: Why is that so? Why do we allow our emotions to build to a boiling point?
Anger. The familiar feeling of fists clenching, teeth grinding— ready to lash out on its next victim. If someone was angry all the time, I would assume that they had ‘anger issues,’ or is a brash person as if it was just a part of their personality. After engaging in some introspection of my own, I realized that an emotion like ‘anger’ is not as clear-cut as I thought it would be.
To me, anger is not merely a ball of rage. At the core of it, anger is a cycle of sadness— repeated over and over again. A feeling that you cannot escape becomes the very thing that brings you down, so the only solution is to blame it on the world around you.
It pains me to see so many people using anger and frustration as a defense mechanism, a quick escape from the shadows of one’s own painful reality. I’d like to think of emotions like anger as the surface covering up one’s mental state, and what lies beneath it is a good person who has been hurt or let down in the past.
I think that it is natural to feel these emotions, but there are definitely ways in which we can improve as a society in terms of better understanding them.
Especially in this day and age, we are too quick to pass judgment onto people. It is easy to criticize based on how one approaches us, jumping to conclusions on the individual’s characteristics and personality.
We have to remember that we all come from different walks of life, with varying experiences which makes us who we are today, and that there is more to a person than meets the eye.
As a society, it is uncommon to be taught on how to deal with these lingering emotions that we experience. The mismanagement of our emotions causes us to be unable to express ourselves in a healthy manner, as we are left to fend on our own and develop our own ways to cope with the stressors in our lives.
Emotions like anger are not just what we feel, but also indicators that we are in the midst of dealing with our inner demons and shadows in life. As much as we try, there are some externalities in life that we just can’t control.
But what we can control are our emotions.
Though easier said than done, we can take our emotions by the reins and choose to face our shadows head on. Trust that there are people out there who are willing to hear you out. So, share your story with someone, or pick up a pen and journal your thoughts till your heart’s content. And for those who notice someone having a bad day— be the first to reach out, stay compassionate and lend an ear to someone who might need it most.
Shadow vs Persona
Oftentimes I wonder how much of “me” is real. How much of my personality is just a fabrication made up of things I’ve seen done by other people? Is there even such a thing as true authenticity within today’s ever-increasingly complicated world? The pursuit of true self-expression seems futile when all we’ve done has been done before.
Incorporated into my persona are all the people I’ve ever interacted with and all the media I’ve ever consumed. The way I let my anger burst and explode comes from my mother. The words I use in my daily vocabulary come from my friends. My morals and values were all passed down from somewhere distant and untraceable. All this is inevitable.
I can’t deny that these people hold space in me. And when the space is no longer enough, more of the “unfiltered” parts of my personality are repressed. My shadow grows bigger.
On bad days, I believe that my shadow is the only true me. That it is the only accurate representation of who I am. It festers in the dark, waiting for me. It waits for something I cannot give. The poor, pitiful thing; It is the culmination of years of fear, terror, and shame. It is unspeakable.
And in turn, the “real” me, I start to believe, is unspeakable.
I wish for someone to lock me up. I wish for them to throw away the key and never return. I deny and bargain as much as I want, but this shadow will forever be my old friend, worst enemy. And accepting it— in all of its monstrosity first starts with the impossible action of admitting it exists.
The scent of sweet orange fills me with anxiety.
I’m flooded in tides of citrus every time I step into Muji. Today is no different. Despite the small bottle of diffuser oil taking up so little space on the store’s shelves, the fumes somehow find their way to me. Or perhaps, I’m the one who’s unknowingly searching for orange amongst the blur of various scents.
In an instant, I’m reminded of the time I was almost expelled from school. I remember the time when neither I nor my mother were sure I would graduate. I wasn’t sure whether I even had a future. I think of everything my loved ones will never know— the things I cannot speak or write about yet. At least, not to its full extent.
Sometimes it aches to think of the person they will never meet.
I turn to my friends browsing storage compartments and stationary. We’d just finished our mock exams. This little moment is so special to me, us choosing to be together. I look at them with love and adoration. Then I set aside the slight heaviness in my heart.
This persona who laughs with her friends, trying so hard to be likeable… The girl who grew up influenced by her parents, by society and her peers… Is that not me? The way I’ve adapted to the world, and the calculated reactions that come with it, are they not a reflection of who I am? This innate desire to be loved and wanted does take root in my shadow, but it seeps through into my consciousness like water in my hands. It is a marriage so sacred I cannot dare to distinguish the two.
I’ve laid myself bare to the world as much as I could. And its enough. It’s more than enough. God, I hope it’s enough.
Written By: Merissa & Zara