As part of my therapy, my existential psychologist therapist told me the emotions that made my guts twist and sent me straight for the peanut butter and couch cushions -- anxiety, frustration, depression, boredom -- were really repressing deeper, more primal emotions like anger, fear, lust, love, and the desire to dominate. We did a lot of work on acknowledging the real emotion so my brain would stop trying to paralyze me every other day with the icky emotions that resulted in inaction and self-hatred.
I spent a lot of time on that, and whether or not you think it sounds nuts, I'm telling you it really worked for me. Once I feel the actual emotion, I can then choose with my big rational brain not to act on it, which is WAY WAY WAY better than walking around with a huge rock in my gut going over and over old scripts in my head. I don't like hating myself.
As I read Sharon's chapter on meditating on emotions for this week, I saw huge similarities between what she was saying and what my therapist said, though they used different vocabulary for it and had different root causes behind it. Essentially, though, same thing -- recognize the emotion, feel it, choose whether or not to act on it.
I've been shopping a novel for a few months. Four times agents have asked for a full manuscript. The full manuscript is actually with an agent now, and the anticipation of another rejection hovers. At the same time, I understand the process and know based on the rejections from the agents who have seen the full that this novel is publishable and well-written. I either just need to find the right person or I am just a few tweaks away from getting it right for this market.
Knowing that does not help.
On the same day I got a rejection earlier this week, I also got an email from a librarian friend of a friend with frank and helpful feedback that was not what I wanted to hear.
The emotion I've been feeling all week as a result? Anger.
In the past, it would've been frustration, depression, self-pity, self-hatred. I'm not good enough. My writing is not good enough. I'll never get another book published. The first one was a fluke. People are embarrassed for me. I am embarrassed for me. How can I go to the grocery store when my novel is not published yet?
Since I've been working on recognizing the primal emotion I'm actually feeling (before the part of my brain that's afraid I will brain the nearest mammal tries to paralyze me with anxiety and pity sure to leave me safely immobile on the couch in tears), I get that I'm mad, and I'm also wishing to dominate the world around me. What I'm actually feeling? Why can't they see how great this novel is? I've worked so hard! I'm ready for my reward now. Like a four-year-old, I'm ready to be done and get my candy.
Knowing I'm mad, I can choose to act on it -- break a chair, punch a pillow, yell at my husband -- or I can choose not to. One of the things my psychologist told me -- which was a shocker to me -- is that emotions aren't moral. Anger isn't "good" or "bad," it's like dirt. It can be helpful at times, hurtful other times. The anger isn't Rita. Rita can choose what to do with the anger. It just washes over me sometimes like wind.
Trigger, response. I got rejected. I felt mad. That's not so odd. I can either act on it (bad idea) or take the energy that shoots through my body when I let myself feel the anger and figure out how to channel it (I'll rewrite the damn novel again, I'll send it out again, I'll figure this out).
This week, I've been meditating on my anger, my desire to dominate the world around me -- which is natural and normal and human. We all do want to dominate in some way -- it's what kept us alive when we have no claws or sharp teeth for all these years. The desire to dominate, to win, is essentially human. It's not so odd for a writer to want her work published and for other people to read it. It's not so odd to feel anger with a system that takes so long to process and is so hard to predict. It's okay to be angry, as long as I don't act on it.
I'll take its energy instead.