(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
The Carters were discussing a friend whom they admired. “He is such a cheerful person; you always find him in a good mood. ”
As they talked, the telephone rang. Mrs. Carter answered it; when she hung up she said to her husband, “That was Cliff Brown. Alice had her baby last night–-a girl, just what they wanted. Cliff is walking on air.”
In describing a person’s response to life–-your own or someone else’s–you speak of feelings and emotions. When looked at objectively, these tell much about the person. In your own case, you might well regard your emotions as guideposts on the route to self-discovery.
If your response to an unexpected change, a challenging idea, or just the daily routine is a positive one, you may use one or more of these words to describe your emotions: happy, cheerful, delighted, in high spirits, in a good mood, elated, thrilled, cordial, warm-hearted, enthusiastic, inspired, comfortable, glad, merry, pleased, joyful, overjoyed, gentle, affectionate, peaceful, long-suffering, meek, temperate, tender, forgiving, in accord, forbearing, genial.
But of course there is also a negative response. When in a good mood, Ted is a pleasant person to be around, but if you catch him when he’s mad–-look out!
“I can tell his mood by the way he shuts the door,” his wife says. “If he nearly breaks the window in slamming it, I brace myself for his first gripe.”
And come it will–followed by other complaints. “Why don’t you make those kids keep their bicycles out of the driveway?” “Turn off that TV. There’s racket enough around here without that thing adding to it!” “Women drivers! They should be kept off the highways after 3:00 in the afternoon!”
Negative responses such as these can cause much misery in life. Edward Strecker and Kenneth Appel have compiled a list of words that people use to describe anger:
When the presence of anger is detected in a person we say he is mad, bitter, frustrated, griped, fed up, sore, hot under the collar, excited (now don’t get excited), seething, annoyed, troubled, inflamed, indignant, antagonistic, exasperated, vexed, furious, provoked, hurt, irked, sick (she makes me sick), pained (he gives me a pain), cross, hostile, ferocious, savage, vicious, deadly, dangerous, offensive.
Then, since anger is energy and impels individuals to do things intending to hurt or destroy, there is a whole series of verbs which depict actions motivated by anger: to hate, wound, damage, annihilate, despise, scorn, disdain, loathe, vilify, curse, despoil, ruin, demolish, abhor, abominate, desolate, ridicule, tease, kid, get even, laugh at, humiliate, goad, shame, criticize, cut, take out spite on, rail at, scold, bawl out, humble, irritate, beat up, take for a ride, ostracize, fight, beat, vanquish, compete with, brutalize, curse, offend, bully (Discovering Ourselves, Macmillan, pp. 114-115).
Emotions and Physical Change
Whether the emotion is positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant, it produces physical changes in the body that are familiar to everyone. The heartbeat increases; breaths are shorter; muscles grow tense; digestion is affected; a person perspires and undergoes glandular changes that put him on the alert.
Think what happens to a child when he becomes excited, particularly when the excitement continues over a period of time. Six-year-old John begged his father to take him to the airport. One night his father said he would take him the next day. How excited John became! After tossing in his sleep, he was awake bright and early. He could hardly sit through school, his body was so tense. He talked airport and airplanes to his schoolmates, his teachers, the traffic officer on the corner, to anyone who would listen.
About 5:00 that evening, he jumped up and down and clapped his hands when he saw his father drive up.
“Dad’s here! Dad’s here!” He whipped out of the house to the car. Before his father could get out, he asked, “We’re still going, aren’t we, Dad? Aren’t we?”
“Of course we’re going,” his dad replied. John ran back into the house with a shout. He only picked at his supper. His body did not require much food under the circumstances.
Jan looked forward to a date with the young man she thought was the most popular in the entire school. All day long she was keyed up. Her appetite disappeared. Even her memory became faulty. Her mother had given her a chore to do that she forgot about due to her excitement over the date. Neither could she study.
The doorbell rang. She heard his voice. Her excitement was at a high point. Her heart began to pound, her hands to sweat. Her face flushed. Making a last check of makeup, she found that her hands trembled. She experienced evident bodily changes that brought a pleasant sensation.
Larry was elated. He had a date, doubling with a buddy and his girlfriend. He whistled and sang as he prepared to leave. His father had given him the car for the evening, and it had been no task at all to get it cleaned up for the occasion.
But when Larry drove in that night he was glum and disgusted. What had happened? His girl was late; the food bill was high; his friend and his friend’s date got into an argument. The evening had been a flop. What a switch from the elation he had enjoyed as he was getting ready! His feelings had changed from pleasant to unpleasant, and so did his bodily functions.
You can easily see that emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, cause you to do something–jump up and down, sit and fret, pace the floor. The bodily changes, however, must return to normal for you to be comfortable and at ease. Where nature is not thwarted, this usually occurs with a minimum of effort. A child who has had an exciting day drops into his bed at night in sheer exhaustion.
With adults, letting nature take its course is often not so easily done. But returning to balance is no less essential for them than for children. Even the tenderest of emotions, pleasant as they are, must subside, allowing bodily processes to revert to normal.