The Architecture of an Emotion

Architecture of an Emotion

What if you could place an emotion under a microscope?

If the architecture of a feeling could be revealed—the color, landscape, its design— I wonder if we would choose our emotions with at least the same care we do our playlist. Long gone would be the days of circuitous thinking and mind-numbing obsessions. We would check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Say, for example, something has upset you. It’s irrational but irritating. This shouldn’t weigh on you so much.When it happened, you decided not worth addressing. It’s not a big deal. But you can’t let it go. It’s been days, weeks, months and this not-a-thing has turned into a thing. Your irritation has become anger. Your anger turned into resentment.

Now, let’s say after breakfast, you decide to take a closer look. This feeling is affecting your mood and your sleep, and your mind keeps telling you to ignore it. It’s not a big deal. But something still doesn’t feel right. What is this feeling? You run some tests, take a closer look. 
You walk into your very own Emotional Laboratory just down the hall from the kitchen. You swab your mouth, place your feeling under the microscope, plug in the reader, and a minute later, a film slides out, ready for viewing. You slide this film into a 1980s View Master specially made for this. Your feeling is confirmed. You’ve been feeling horrible for weeks! This is why. The feeling is a thing and this thing looks rotten, claustrophobic, very similar to sausage. Is it pus? Slime? The very sight makes you gag. Something is festering.

You decide you must get to the bottom of this, release this feeling. It’s no good for you, for your health. You used to believe you had no control over your feelings… that you could only manage them, at best. But it’s simply not true. The only reason you thought your feelings controlled you is because you didn’t know what you were feeling. Seeing this proves it! The very instant that you realized your festering looked like garbage, something in you shifted! You forgot the nature of the irritation on the spot and decided to figure out how to feel better. You decide to clean up your act.

You leave home. 
You take the long way to work.
 You notice the trees and the pets and the sky. It’s breathtaking.
You think to yourself I’ve never seen the sky look quite like this before. You notice more things you’ve never seen before. And this makes you vulnerable. Your vulnerability becomes tenderness. Your tenderness becomes wonder.

But will I still get things done? I can’t always take the long way to work.
I have tasks to tackle! Expectations to meet! Meetings to expect!

You feel as if you’re stuck in a Dr. Seuss book and the joke is you.

But something inside you wrestles free; a feeling starts to assemble.

We’re all doing our best.

I am doing my best.
 I work hard.
I am hard, mostly on myself.
 But I feel…vulnerable, I think. Uncertain? Maybe I don’t know what I feel.

So you go back to the laboratory. You place this uncertain vulnerable je ne sais quoi under the microscope. You plug in the reader. A film pops out. You place it in the View Master. The image reminds you of a Georgia O’Keefe painting. A word comes to mind. Hope.
On the back of the film, is a possible definition of a  possible feeling: Hope

A cherished desire in anticipation, to expect with confidence. Implies little certainty but suggests assurance of the desired outcome. Trust in something unknown.

I find it helpful to imagine the architecture to an emotion. That thing we call happiness or love or grief? What is it but a combination of several feelings in varying degrees?  But the more you understand the thing within you – its shape, landscape, its nuance — the more agency you have. What if took more care with our emotional bodies? What if at the very least, we investigated the feeling beyond just experiencing it. And then asked ourselves – now that I understand the feeling– will I foster or fester, feed it or free it?

Like what you see here? Sign up to our Newsletter (at the bottom of this page) to receive nuggets of inspiration, reflection, and wisdom delivered to your inbox each week. It’s totally free — no strings attached. (And we don’t sell or share your info with anyone. Promise.) Spread the love.