Where Do Our Emotional Responses Come From? Are They Truly Ours? by Danielle Fagan Last night, my sister and I drove our separate ways. She went to spend the night at my parents’ house that I recently moved from and I continued driving to my new home. I thought how the parting of ways was symbolic and said to myself, “Wow, this is sad.” But when I tried to feel the truth of that statement, I only found happiness. I found joy and excitement at the thought of my new life and decided to choose my emotion instead of a programmed one. It led me to an interesting thought, “What percentage of my thoughts and emotions are based on what I think I should be thinking and feeling? And how much of it is actually genuine?” Do We Learn Our Emotional Responses From Others? We often imitate the reactions of those we see in Hollywood movies or of our family and friends. This mentality is tribal. By mimicking those around us, we feel like we belong. Even with age and experience we still often limit our individuality and follow the crowd. But as conscious individuals, we begin to strip away the old beliefs and walk our own path. It feels foreign and sometimes scary to take the path less traveled but the unpredictability is just so exciting! When you relinquish “control,” you start to have a lot more fun. Earlier this year, my fiance proposed to me in the middle of a game of laser tag. My initial reaction was complete shock. I was speechless. There was no romantic song playing in the back, he didn't spin me around and dip me afterward. Instead, we cried, we laughed really hard, we hugged and we drank a camomile tea afterward. That reaction was not what I would have anticipated based on the stories I had heard or the movies I’ve watched, but I wouldn't change a thing. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined it to be because it was REAL. Observe Your Own Reactions Take a look at your life and the feelings you have on a day-to-day basis. What emotions are yours and which are not? Does that action honestly make you happy? Going to a party might make you miserable. Talking to your wife might make you want to pull whatever hair you have left out. Your divorce might be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you. Your experience is completely unique. There is no point in comparing yourself to your friends, family members, models or actors on TV. They are not you so their experience can never match your own. What types of things make you angry? Sad? Happy? Why do they make you feel that way? If your own answer doesn’t make good, clear sense to you, then it probably isn’t yours. Do We Know Why We Hold Onto Things? I’ll end with this: there was a family that had a roast every Sunday. The mother of the family would cut the ends off each side of the roast before serving it. Her daughter noticed this and when she had her own family, she would have them over for Sunday’s and cut the ends off her roasts too. Then her daughter noticed and carried on the tradition. One day, a guest came over for Sunday dinner. He asked, “why do you cut the ends off the roast?” The granddaughter thought about it and didn't know. She called her great grandmother and asked her, “grandma, why did you cut the ends off the roast?” She replied, “Because my dish wasn't big enough to fit the whole roast!” What traditions are YOU keeping alive?