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The Accidental Philosopher: Oops. I felt it again

Jealousy, insecurity, sexual passion... Why do you feel these things, asks Judy Balan

brunch Updated: Jun 07, 2012 14:42 IST
Judy Balan

'Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.' - Batman Begins

I've been thinking about feelings. You know, the negative ones that cause drama, waterworks and in my case, heartburn. Almost all man-made disasters from debts to affairs begin with a feeling - a gooey sensation in the chest region that indicates you are drawn to something - sometimes, even against all odds. It's at this point, that many Gandalf-like individuals will come along to tell you things like 'You can't choose your feelings, but you can choose not to act on them.'

HeartThis makes sense because if I acted on my feelings all the time, I'd be like the girl from Confessions of a Shopaholic - getting stalked by debt collectors - or, I don't know, made to stand at Marina Beach with the scarlet letter printed on my dress. But it brings me back to one question - why the hell do feelings exist if we're not supposed to act on them?

I mean, take jealousy for instance. It is probably the most pointless of all feelings. Even its sister insecurity has some kind of past - it has daddy issues or it was fat in high school or some such thing - so you know that it's always there and have found a way to deal with it. But jealousy is not like that. It doesn't live with you. It's like that painful distant relative who is always showing up unannounced and taking over your couch and TV for indefinite periods of time. And every time you think you've told him off, he's back - as if on cue - to remind you that you can never really be free of him.

When I think about how much of my life (a whole decade in case you're wondering) I've wasted on relationships that went nowhere and arguments that were triggered by pointless, irrational feelings such as jealousy, I want to cry copious amounts. I mean, I could have invested that energy in writing! I could have written many, many books, travelled the world and met The One by now. But then again, jealousy isn't the only culprit.

Consider sexual passion - it's been around since Biblical times and yet no one's really found a way to keep it in check. I'm sure, given a choice, no one would actually choose to have their homes wrecked or their careers go kaput over a meaningless fling, so how come these things continue to make the headlines almost every week? Feelings! They begin innocently - almost like suggestions and before you know it, you're neck-deep in your own lack of self-control.

I was recently in that place - I felt something I couldn't act on and in my frustration, I asked God - 'WHY am I feeling this! I am already over this! And you know I can't act on this!' and then God spoke in that booming Charlton Heston voice - 'Because feelings are your compass. They tell you where you are.'

Ah. And I always thought that if I felt like having Rich Dark Chocolate Cake, it meant that I wanted Rich Dark Chocolate Cake. Wrong! It simply means that I'm not yet over it. Because what I want is a whole, healthy meal that will fill my tummy and not clog my arteries. And if I'm not aware of my unfinished business with Rich Dark Chocolate Cake, I will end up succumbing to it in an unguarded moment - rendering months of time spent at the gym completely pointless.

SO. Feelings don't just exist to torture me. They are actually meant to protect me. They are like signals from within about where I am and how far that is from where I want to be.

Also, I was kidding. God sounds nothing like Charlton Heston.

Judy is a compulsive theorist and dreamy single-mum. She believes in serendipity, The Butterfly Effect and is pop-culture-crap intolerant. She is also the best-selling author of Two Fates - The Story of My Divorce

(The views expressed by the author are personal)

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