100% of self help, self done, is focussed on getting your emotions right. But are you sure that’s what you want? Getting your emotions right is absolutely important. They determine how you interact with others, communicate, show kindness, compassion and more. It’s called mindfulness. And yet, emotions are fake. All of them.
To be clear: information arrives at your mind via the senses, taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. As that information gets processed, it creates a thought, and as a consequence a feeling. That feeling is what we express as an emotion. Hence there’s alot going on for every emotion you have.
I was in the Himalayas walking and the head of Tengoboche monastery was struggling with two helpers up a steep hill. I only saw three monks, one very old and partly crippled walking up the hill. They had no emotion. Just gorgeous smiles. And an intent to get home to the monastery. I didn’t know that this old man was the boss, Ringpoche, the most revered monk in the mountains and for many, the world. He is one of the Dalai Lama’s teachers. I handed him my trekking poles. Those poles were expensive and I’d bought them in Sydney not some cheap rip off in Kathmandu. I handed him my poles and they accepted. All smiles. No emotion. I walked on going down the hill back home to Namche. Five years later I sat in the small kitchen of Ringpoche’s lodgings at the monastery and he pointed to the poles in the corner of the room, put his hands to his chest in prayer and nodded. No emotion. I was tempted to feel proud, to feel clever, to feel important amongst my students who’d been allowed into the sanctuary of his privacy. But I didn’t I simply smiled. He knew, I knew, it was not about emotion.
Deep within you, there is you. Emotion covers it. Emotions are like layers. They cover you. Fear and guilt build those layers and we need that armour to protect us. So, emotions are armour, layers of protection between us and the world around us. We get angry, judge people, be friendly to manipulate others all to protect us. We say our emotions of mindfulness and kindness and compassion are for the benefit of others but they aren’t. They are our protection, the shield of armour against uncertainty about how others will feel about us.
This morning Lotte, my partner in life, is preparing herself for a triathlon race. She’s taking it so professionally, step by step loading her bag, preparing her bike, getting her race run shoes re-laced with elastic quick entry laces for fast transitions. Her race suit is ready and her warm up cool down gear is in a separate bag. I feel her nerves. Her emotions are rising. And with it, I am feeling her feelings and it’s so easy for me to try to help or calm her and in doing so, interfere with her process. She has a checklist written to go through her preparation including what time to wake, eat, drink hydration and stretch. Everything is scheduled. I’m not included. This is her process of eliminating nerves, emotions that can sabotage her race. And although I feel her feelings, emotions building, they are the chemistry that is needed for her body to prepare itself for a horrible hour of absolute heart ripping effort. She knows the pain that’s coming in a few hours from now, she wants to win, do well, perform, and understandably, with Covid limiting her world travel, these small events are crucial feedback for her. Emotions are rising and as every emotion rises, energy is spent. Vital energy she will need after 750meters of swimming, to get across onto her bike and ride at 180 bpm heart rate for 30 minutes before running 5k at survival energy, 190 or more BPM peak heart rate and have enough in the tank to sprint to the finish. Emotion robs us. They are essential to build the body into preparedness but they are theives. If Lotte could arrive at the start without emotions, she would perform 5-10% better, but that’s the journey she’s on, less emotion, bigger events all the way to the Olympics.
As a business person you may not relate to Lotte or Ringpoche, but this is you too. Pressure mounts, time compresses, you arrive at the start of your triathlon every single morning. The more emotion you have the more guarded you are and the more you fake the layers of armour you present as being you. The more layers, the more energy you spend on nothing that will cause you a result. Your leadership, your project completion date, the quality of your work, your productivity, your clarity of mind, all of these are degraded by emotion. And yet, your HR department will measure you based on emotion. Just as the press will measure Lotte in her pre race entertainment interviews, your HR and sometimes even your team will measure you on your emotions. It’s a catch 22.
Trust is a weird thing. But underneath your assimilation of your environment you exist perfectly. If your senses could not absorb and respond to the environment your emotions could not be triggered and your true self would be left to do whatever it is, triathlon, help a monk or run a business. It would simply be a process of trusting that there is a start point, and end point and one is fully committed to getting between them in the best possible way.
I see a monk on a hill and he is struggling. I do not have to fake an emotion. He is going from start point at the bottom to end point at the top and I give him what I don’t need so he does it faster and without so much heart stopping pain. I stay silent for Lotte knowing that the fastest path between wake and recover with a triathlon in between is to not inject my emotions of hope and desire for her to be successful. I simply hold love.
And that is the conclusion of all this. Love. Love – at the highest level, is not an emotion. Of course, to a 15 year old, love is something different. To an emotionally wounded individual it is something else, and to a violent miscreant it is again, something else. Sex has nothing to do with it, love and sex are two different topics but we directly associate pleasure with love. But love, the sort of love I mention here, is different. It’s the love for human beings that makes you give your trekking poles away, it’s the love for a sport that makes you give your spare time to it, it’s the love for work that costs you a family or even fails to meet the expectation of others. Love isn’t an emotion, never was, never will be. And therefore, ultimately, we have emotions in a feeble attempt to escape from it or fake it. So you see, quite the opposite to helping you be a better version of yourself, to live and give from love, most self-help takes you in the complete opposite direction by helping you harness and graduate in the school of fake.