EVERYDAY PSYCHIC POSSESSION

Emotion lives, doing and feeling things that you don’t want. You want to be free of craving and anxiety; but emotion prevents you. It is insistent, impatient and irresistible, making you jiggle, fiddle, shop, chatter, smoke, drink, over-eat, fret, wallow, regret-wank, lash out and do all the other things that you, and those around you, wish you didn’t.

Emotion poisons the mood of the house, bringing a weight down upon its inhabitants - particularly those sensitive to subtle atmosphere and vibe. Emotion makes young children scream for no apparent reason. It cuts people off from each other, reducing communication to approval or disapproval. Emotion corrupts nuance of thought and discernment, creates and sustains ideology and leads to violence and self- harm. Emotion destroys feeling, reducing the ever-new hyper-vivid subtlety of atmospheric vibe to a crude want-not-want-got-lost binary diode.

Emotional people - which is all of us from time to time - cannot tell the difference between confidence and arrogance, sensitivity and weakness, spontaneity and instability, love and craving or between great art and pornography. This wouldn’t be a problem were it not that emotion is a near constant presence in our lives; and yet, for the most part, it goes unperceived. All you know is that you want something; although you don’t quite know what it is. Emotion knows what it wants though; more emotion.

From restless boredom emotion goes looking for more emotion - which it calls excitement, fun or stimulation - more want-don’t-want movement; particularly danger, drama, drug-use and, above all, sex. Without the anxiety and impatience of emotion such intense experiences are exhilarating, fascinating, revealing and joyous. Backed by emotional restlessness they are violent, dishonest, addictive and selfish. Emotion cannot see the difference, even when the inevitable broken heart, excitement hangover or financial crash comes, which you then have to apologise for.

The default setting of emotion is ‘sorry’.

Emotion and thought feed off each other. Narrow pixellated emotional wanting creates crude binary thought (worry, hope, fantasy, belief, speculation, the imagined opinions of others, etc.), which makes you more emotional, which makes you think more. But these thoughts are never true; never creative or apt.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that emotion restricts flexibility of thinking and increases the likelihood of the availability error (the tendency to favour prominent facts over subtle ones), reducing the continental variety and subtlety of actual experience to crude black and white ideas. When emotional you don’t give intricate appraisals of yourself (or others) like ‘I’m often very clever but occasionally really stupid, and although I tend towards inactivity, when I work at something I love, I work really hard,’ or ‘she is honest with her family and at work, but evasively untruthful when making romantic arrangements with effeminate men.’ No. All you can think is ‘I’m a loser,’ or ‘she’s dishonest.’ The technical term for this behaviour, choosing simplistic personality labels over subtle appraisals of situation, is the fundamental attribution error. The consequence of such thinking is depression (‘that’s it, I’m a loser’) and contention (‘How can you say you’re honest!’).

None of this would be a problem if you could just switch emotion off: if knowledge were enough. But it is not. Emotion lives in you. Over time emotion forms an increasingly digitalised and autonomous inner-machine; mechanically seeking crude animal goals (power, food, sex, security, and stimulation) for itself. The more attention given to the emotional system, the more it gains a momentum and power of its own. Its as if a separate entity is living inside you, a kind of psychic possession. It seems to have its own dark intelligence; it wants you to get easily bored, it wants you to build up expectations that screw up hoped-for holidays, it wants to lead your thoughts to what you have lost forever... it wants to make you suffer!

This suffering goes by many different names, depending on the cause or context; but it always feels the same. Emotion can be called boredom, depression, doubt, anxiety, fear, awkwardness, impatience, guilt, frustration, anger, discontent, despair, loneliness, sadness, apathy, grief... or excitement. They all seem different because they come from different kinds of objective cause (shame, from thinking about something bad you have done, doubt, from thinking about a difficult decision, etc.). And yet, if you are honest, they all feel more or less the same; stone in the guts, weight on the chest, twittering under it, constriction around the throat and grip on the back of the head.

You have to be honest to see the fundamental sameness of all emotion because emotion is caused by focusing on (aka blaming) an always-different objective event or idea. You are sad because ‘you lost it,’ or you are bored because ‘there is nothing to do.’ When you’ve been caught lying emotion shrinks back and you call it ‘shame’. When you’ve caught someone else lying it leaps forward, and you call it ‘anger’.

These situations seem different because you are focused on an external object person or situation. You are not paying attention to the inner sensation, to the cause of emotion. But if you turn your attention away from the apparent cause and instead attend to the actual internal sensation of the emotion, you will start to feelingly perceive that the emotion is really being caused by a strange subtle ‘clinging,’ ‘grasp’ or fear. This is true (as opposed to mere verbal) honesty. The closer you look (the more honest you are) the more clearly you see that you are able to let go of this feary hanging-on; but that there is some weird dishonest part of you that does not want to, and which is determined to focus on external causes, determined to cling on to itself and think, as a way to deflect attention away from itself. Emotion does not want you to look at it, to feelingly observe it, to learn about it. It does not want you to sort out your life, to master your addictions and fears. It wants you to blame anything and everything else for your problems.

When you turn towards emotion, you begin to perceive that it speaks a language, and like all languages it takes time to learn what it is saying, but when you can, you’ll find a way out of the hell of indecision and an end to the hypocrisy of working for peace in the world or security in your bank account while there is war in your heart.

All the time you merely have opinions about what to do, about what is right and wrong with yourself or the world, your reactions to the world are second-hand, inappropriate, or out of step. When you can feel the subtle twinge of emotional pain the moment it appears, and do what needs to be done about it instantly, you’ll act appropriately.

The more you do this, the more you discover that the pain of emotion, the devil that has haunted you your life through, is, in truth, your friend.