Why Some People Choose to Distance Themselves from Emotions

By: Ali Sakr

For a moment, I want you to stop. Stop all of that. Stop caring about your friends. Stop worrying about your exams. Stop being happy about your latest achievement. Stop loving your family. Stop feeling sad when someone leaves your life. Stop feeling obliged to make everyone around you satisfied with your presence. For a moment, stop your eyes from crying whenever life isn’t going your way. Stop your heart from beating so Goddamn fast when you see someone you like. Stop smiling when you feel genuinely happy. Stop feeling genuinely happy. For a moment, I want you to stop feeling.

It’s not sadness, really – just indifference. Your mouth is closed but your lips rest so lightly upon each other, you could mistake the line between them for a small opening. Your eyelids hover gently above your eyes, covering a quarter of each iris. All your muscles seem relaxed; stretched but calm. Your head tilts slightly in both directions at the same time, favoring neither over the other. Your breathing is rhythmic – robotic even, but completely unbothered. Each blink is heavy, not because you’re tired, but because why blink fast? What could you possibly miss? And even if you missed so much, at the moment, you don’t really look like you care.

Emotions, while often quite useful, are problematic, to say the least. They can save you from a life-or-death situation, but they can also deter you from a seemingly unprecedented opportunity. What you just did now, losing your emotions for a moment, that’s how many choose to live their entire lives; unwilling to participate in the chaos that is feeling and reacting. Maybe not to the fullest extent I described, but these people exist. It’s not so much that they lack emotions, but instead that they allow their logical, conscious minds to take (complete) control over their lives. They have not lost the ability to feel, but simply decided not to – for better or for worse.

So, why? Why would you ever resort to not feeling? This, of course, is so multifactorial you couldn’t possibly put it into a set number of reasons, but here I go.

Let’s start this out with a simple one: it’s just easier. Our emotions are indirectly the cause of most of our problems. Indirectly because a problem is very rarely the direct result of an emotion we’re feeling, but rather, emotions are what make us perceive an otherwise regular incident as a problem in the first place. I can only imagine the number of times you’ve gotten into a fight with a friend because one of you was feeling quite off before the fight even happened. This negative emotion was not only transferred to the other, ever so unfortunate friend, but also created a “problem”. Now, what if one of you just didn’t care? Friend A is your average emotional teenager, and friend B has decided not to feel, or at least to feel less. Whenever friend A has any negative emotions, they flood to friend B, yes, but no negative reaction is created in the process. Instead, friend A ends up having an outlet to get rid of these emotions, at the price of just some of friend B’s time. The resultant emotion at the end of this interaction is neutral – as a wise titan once said, “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.”

It’s easier because you get into fewer fights with your friends? That’s it? Well, not quite. You generally just get to experience less bullshit. Your life doesn’t figuratively stop when someone else’s does literally. You don’t let one awkward social interaction ruin your entire day. You don’t spend hours analyzing that one text from your best friend because they used better punctuation than they normally do. You no longer fret over the little – or large things, which you normally would. This all then contributes to one thing; helping you achieve your goals. Every decision you take is logical and to some extent calculated. You no longer rely on instincts or gut feelings to do anything, but instead always do what you think will get you closer to whatever goal you have. You’d think living a life like this would be boring, or at least – and rightfully so – neutral. I beg to differ, though.

I don’t think anyone in their right mind is capable of being 100% emotionless. The hormones won’t suddenly stop being secreted into your blood – that’s just not how it works. I usually imagine a scale, one with logical on the far left, and emotional on the far right. Your

average person would usually fall somewhere in the middle, having a slight tendency towards either side. When you decide to be emotionless, though, you’re no longer your average person. You can approach the logical side as much as you like, but you’re never really at the end of the scale. You will forever have likes and dislikes. You will forever, even if slightly, enjoy the company of some people over that of others. You will never be able to feel absolutely nothing after the death of someone you love. And that is nothing to be ashamed of, or try changing. The “best” you can do in this case, is limit how much you react to an incident – how much of it you perceive as a problem, or a success. How much you feel isn’t some discretely measurable variable, but it sure as hell isn’t something out of your control. When you can finally grasp these emotions – when they become an asset you control to give you an advantage, not some built-in system that often controls you, you’ll live a life nothing short of boring. It won’t end up completely neutral either.

I’m not telling you to suppress all your emotions, but if no one suppressed any, everyone would be walking around sobbing and laughing hysterically all the time. Do I think you should be as emotionless as you can? No. Do I think you should be as emotional as you can? Also, no. I must think you should find that perfect balance of the two, then, right? And at last, another no. My answer is, it depends. It depends on the person, yes, but more importantly, the situation. Sometimes you need to be cold-hearted and logical. Some other times you need to be caring and compassionate. And there are even times when you need to be both. No one will ever tell you how much you’re supposed to feel in every situation of your life. I don’t think anyone will even point you in the right direction. I guess this is something you’re just supposed to feel.

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