WHENEVER and wherever I am at the lowest points in my life I would always ask this question “What would you do?” This question would calm my nerves and soothe my senses as I try to figure out what are the circumstances which led to a certain situation I am facing. There were even times when other people would openly say “If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”
Our lives have been a constant mix of endless possibilities and challenges. Chances come daily with occasional twists and changes. You might get the feeling of owning the world one day and the day after, the world is on your shoulders. Will you just watch and let things be? What would you do?
I happen to recall a movie in which the story line is set inside the brain of a young girl named Riley. That flick titled “Inside Out” which was released in 2015 showed the interplay of the girl’s emotions which were depicted as cartoon characters named Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. I enjoyed the movie with my family and every time I am in a difficult situation, my youngest would often ask who is in charge of my emotions among the five characters. She would politely say “don’t let Anger or Disgust consume you, mom.” If only I could shout to her “What would you do?”
“What would you do?” Let us examine first that ecstatic feeling of pure joy. Joy is synonymous of feelings with great pleasure or happiness - that emotion of bliss when you have a lot to celebrate and thank for. You have a successful marriage and wonderful children. Opportunities abound at work. You are doing well in your chosen career and you’ve got a great circle of friends who love your company. Many wanted the life you have but you wanted more so you go for more. Are you really having Joy? In your quest for more, you start losing yourself and forgot about the pure joy accorded to you. Things would crumble down a bit, or worse, it will come down crashing. What would you do?
Then Sadness starts to creep. You cannot contain your grief. You start to understand other people’s motives. You can almost see through each of them and their innermost desires. Not all people who surround you are genuinely concerned. Not all your friends and acquaintances really seem to care. You howled in pain. They don’t give a damn. It’s your struggle. It’s your story. It’s your race. What would you do?
Fear starts to engulf your thoughts. Suddenly, you are afraid of almost anything – the fear of being rejected, the fear of being ridiculed, the fear of losing an opportunity. Anxiety, worries, frustration and doubts come dashing by your thoughts even making you more afraid. You fear death, you fear growing old, you fear losing your job, and worse - that fear of losing someone you love. Fear is indeed so real. What would you do?
Disgust can blend with your other emotions and may affect your entire being. Although this is a universal emotion which comes along when we experience other emotions, it can set the stage for our life’s journey. Disgust could be useful as it protects you from things which might cause you harm. Disgust can be your moral compass as you filter people you wanted in your life. In contrast, disgust can get critical and judgmental as you magnify the errors you see on people or things which disappoint you. It makes you see and feel beneath people’s perspectives and motives. Either way, it makes you logical or illogical. When confronted with such feeling, what would you do?
Then comes among the strongest of emotions. All of yourself can be dominated by Anger. The sum of your sadness could make you hostile. Your silent fears and your occasional disgust could provoke feelings of harshness. You don’t want to get mad but you are rigorously challenged. You wanted to help but people mistook such act and wanted to add flavor or give meaning to the things you surely and simply loved to do. You keep on doing your tasks, your duties, your responsibilities with much gusto. After all, you are determined to work for a cause and not for applause. Yet, you were incessantly berated and belittled – for no apparent reason. They say you have motives – you see ulterior motives in what they were saying. What would you do?
Our feelings are indeed so powerful and many of them are fighting to be heard. The five emotions depicted in the movie “Inside Out” namely Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger are but the most common of the sea of emotions affecting us as we journey through life. Each day provides a plenitude of chances for us to prove ourselves and how we respond to varied situations. We may navigate with joy or traverse with sadness. We may listen to our fears and express our disgust openly. We may feel angry over what others have done to us or the things we have not done. We can even combine all these feelings altogether knowingly or unknowingly.
These feelings – they either make or break us but the best news is we have control over them. We may fuel these emotions but definitely we have the gauge. We set our own limits and we should assume full responsibility for the outcomes we have brought ourselves. Perhaps, the next time you are confronted with uncertainties and complexities, don’t just jump into the first emotion which makes your heart pound, or such emotion which makes your face smirk or forces you a wry smile. Think about the consequences – think about the results – think about the outcomes – fast forward your thoughts to the future emotions you would either relish or dislike.
With great sensitivity, let us always remember how many of us would go to great lengths just to avoid extreme emotions like sadness, fear and anger. Nevertheless, all of our emotions provide an important insight into our self and our outer environment – an interesting way of making a deeper connection between us and the people or circumstances which come our way.
As I pursue life with its endless tales of humps and bumps, through twists and turns, these emotions help me get by. There are good and bad days...there are stepping stones and stumbling blocks....there may be roadblocks but openings may and still await. Hence, whenever life’s toughest blows come my way , I often find myself taking a long, deep breath as I whisper a prayer and asked my Ultimate Guide “What would you do?”
What would you do? He may give you the answers indirectly. He might give you warnings but the answer lies in you. After all, it is our choice to be masters or slaves of our own emotions. So the next time you feel like screaming, or yelling mad at someone or giving that cold stare to someone who caused you pain or sorrow or stole your happiness just don’t forget to take your thoughts to the results of your actions then graciously remind yourself by asking “What would you do?”
What would you want to do? What do you need to do? What’s the best thing to do? How far would you go? Will you be consumed by these emotions or will you have power over them? What would you do?