We relate to the world through emotions that we are rarely taught to understand, much less when society expects us as men to be alienated from our sentimental side. Milan Kundera described this relationship with life as a frameless draft, an individual attempts to experience reality, where at the same time one seeks to understand it.
In these attempts to understand what we feel, we have learned that our emotions are always related to the outside.
We get angry about the traffic, sad about a personal problem and feel happy to be with a loved one; everything would seem to indicate that we are oblivious to our feelings and that we are slaves of the world around us, unable to control the way we live.
However, the control we can have over our feelings is more related to awareness, as Aaron Ben-Zeev, doctor of philosophy and one of the most authoritative voices in the study of emotions, writes: “The spontaneous nature of emotions leads people to believe that we are not responsible for them and that they are irrelevant in the moral realm”; but the truth is that we have power over our emotions and we must use it to improve our relationship with other people and with ourselves.
A Way to Deconstruct Yourself
Emotional responsibility implies an awareness, and ability to control our life even in difficult circumstances or with high levels of stress. It is not a question of escaping from what we feel, as we are taught in macho societies, but rather of reflecting on what we experience and acting on that new knowledge: why do certain circumstances make me angry, what makes me happy, how do I deal with sadness? And how do my emotions affect others?
It is emotional intelligence that becomes aware of what we feel daily. Historically we have been taught that men are not emotionally expressive: that we should not cry, that we rarely show love, and that we should remain calm despite the circumstances. This dissociation from our emotional side has caused us to be so unaware of our emotions that in many cases it is difficult to realize that we are depressed.
According to Ilene Strauss, an American psychotherapist, awareness is a form of independence and control over actions that all people should seek: “to better manage emotions you must take responsibility for the problems you face, this puts you in control of your own life, instead of being controlled by your emotions,” in this way it is possible to detect the situations that bring us happiness, anger, fear or sadness; which can greatly enrich the relationship we have with other people.
By having an awareness of our emotions one can realize how they affect others. In a relationship (it may be a love, friendship or work relationship) when you are not responsible for your feelings, bad action is exempted by not being aware, “it was an irrational act because I was angry” or “in my sadness, I didn’t realize the damage it caused”. In this sense Aaron himself writes: “My responsibility about anger refers to my inability to avoid the circumstances that generate it”, it is inevitable to have negative emotions, but we are capable of detecting when we have them and observe how they affect the people we live with.
It is at this point that emotional responsibility becomes important, which implies being aware of our actions, of the pain they can cause, and taking responsibility for what is caused.
The concept goes hand in hand with empathy and has a greater value when it comes to open love or work relationships, where other people’s feelings can be relegated to second place (either in free love or by the hierarchy in a company).
In this sense, it is important to remember that each person is a world, that what may seem funny to one person may seem offensive to another, or that what may seem like flirting to someone else is harassment. In this way, by being aware of the actions we have normalized and how they affect others it is possible to combat the individualistic idea that only our person matters; in the end, we are all part of a society and as active members we want it to keep improving constantly.