I heard someone say "These Confederate statues incite violence" on MSNBC.
There are so many people who misspeak about how their feelings come about – even how their behavior does. They think what others think, feel, say or do upsets them. If you think about it, that puts them at the seeming mercy of what others say or do, and what happens – things they really have no control of. That causes them to feel worse than is necessary or helpful. That makes people more reactive, and less likely to consider consequences before acting. Otherwise smart people can do some pretty stupid things when they generate more emotion than is helpful. We saw a perfect example of it when James Alex Fields drove his car through crowds on a Charlottesville street. More importantly, looking at things this way causes people to miss opportunities to feel better.
Over 2000 years ago, Epictetus said “Man is not disturbed by the events of his life, but by the beliefs he holds about them”. That was true then, still is, and always will be. It’s the thoughts we have about the events of our lives that really cause how we feel, not the events themselves. Thoughts cause feelings, not events. It’s important to get this right because our behavior will always follow our emotions toward our life events.
There’s always more than one way to look at anything, so we always have choices. Some of those ways will make us feel better, others worse. Some ways make it easier to deal with what happens, and what we don’t like, others harder.
E-motion is energy to move – to help us get what we want and need, and protect us from threats. The more we generate, the more reactive we become, and the more likely we are to make mistakes, and do something stupid that we’ll regret later. If our lives were truly in danger, a lot of energy to move might be a good thing. But human beings have a tendency to needlessly manufacture threats where they don’t exist, and magnify ones that do all out of proportion to reality simply by the way they choose to look at things. Wrongly blaming others for how we make ourselves feel can cause needless conflicts, and exacerbate ones that might exist.
No emotion on our part will make those we disagree with, including racists, neo-Nazis or white Supremacists change their beliefs or behavior to our liking. In fact, generating a lot of emotion can actually have quite the opposite effect – cause them to double down on their objectionable beliefs and behavior. Not to mention it can be rewarding for them to see us get upset, and satisfying.
By the way, generating more emotion than is helpful or necessary, than someone wants to have, and than they know what to do with, is what gives purpose to drug use, and rise to the opioid epidemic. And part of why people generate that emotion is they wrongly see others and the events of their lives as being responsible for how they feel, and blame them for it.