I have written about how our feelings influence every one we meet. Their feelings also influence how we feel. I wrote about what a great opportunity this is for each of use to spread a little joy in the world and increase our own joy by doing it.
A week ago I had an intense experience of another emotion. The setting for this was a youth league basketball game. The experience caught me completely off guard. I was watching the game. My grandson was playing well. I was having fun. Suddenly, a spectator in front of me started yelling, threw his cap down on the bleachers, and stalked out of the gym.
I was intensely angry at him. For what? I don’t think I was truly angry with him. I tried to make up reasons why I might be. They were not right. What I was doing was simply reacting and sharing his anger. It was a strong feeling. I mention writing this blog to my wife. She seconded my description of my reaction. She also mentioned that she felt the anger return when he returned. Even after he apologized to the wife of the coach he was angry at my wife was uncomfortable.
This feeling might have been useful at some distant time. It might have been a way to rise up and drive off a predator. The physical symptoms of my anger could create a feeling of danger in that predator. It might have been useful in diverting anger to a weaker target. It’s not very useful now.
I believe sharing aggressive feelings is more common than we think. Sure, we have all had a day ruined by an encounter with a grumpy, unhappy, or unpleasant person. Often this does not happen with a specific person. More often, we are in groups or situations where a number of people are a little angry. We find ourselves on edge. A certain easy irritability or uneasiness creeps into our body. We are ready for a fight or flight..
Fortunately, along with inheriting the ability to sense and mirror another’s feelings we have developed the ability to reflect on our own feelings. When I am infected with an emotion that surprises me I look for the trigger. Sometimes, I do find it in a reaction to something I am aware of. Sometimes, I do not. When I do find a trigger I examine it and gauge the proportion of the cause to the reaction. That often reduces my emotion to a whisper.
The trickier times are when can’t find any cause within myself. Where can it be coming from? Every once in a while I can spot the exact source. That is what happened at the basketball game. That makes it easier to disengage from the emotion. At other times the just does not seem to be a specific cause. When I can find a cause I often find that the exercise of looking for a cause, itself, will drop the intensity of the emotion.
If I can’t find the cause or reduce the emotion, I have two options. I can exit the environment. This is, to me, the better alternative. It puts distance between me and the cause. The other alternative is to enter into a mini meditation and disengage from the environment. That also puts distance between me and the cause.