The Birth of Emotion

Chris Russell
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

Time still passes by with no concern that it is travelling at break neck speeds. In the darkness of this unfamiliar room, the nauseating scents of previous human exchanges exaggerated in an exponential way, this feeling of oppression. There are no distinguishing features in thisroom--only a bed with musty over used sheets, an old, peeling and dilapidated dresser of drawers, and sitting precariously on a broken edge, a mirror reflects the bareness of the other walls. The single window in the room allows the artificial light of the city through a translucent, dirt-coated surface. There is no real or conscious reason for being here. It is as though on a day, unknown to anybody, you find that this is were you are.

Things don't get better. Nex, the mind that you now call your own starts to travel with speeds close to, if not higher than, that in which time is moving. There is, so it seems now, no controlling your mind, and it takes you to the realization that you have self-awareness. Answers to questions unknowable are flashed across your newly discovered mind, but these answers are fleeting while the questions are not. You are left with questions that don't seem to be answerable.

These questions pound on your existence like a sledge hammer pounding into your chest. Your heart feels the pain, and you come to your next realization: you have huge wells of unexpressed emotion. In fact emotion, now that you have come into contact with it, is the force that propels you to express yourself. To identify and release some of the emotions inside, to allow them to be free, of only they could find a way out of their prison within your own mind.

With a movement that is closer to instinct than anything else, you find that emotion can escape through your self-expression. The force of this release is not unlike a shot-gun being fired, and your first attempt at self-expression turns into a scream. Noise that is the expression of pent-up, uncontrolled and free emotion leaves your body. It echoes in the room, and at the same time travels through the thin walls into the adjacent areas of your new world. These reverberations of your freely expressed emotion move in an ever bigger circle away from you, with you acting as the centroid of their powerful, diligent and unstoppable progress.

As the movement of your emotion travels so do you. It was not as difficult to leave the room as you feared it might be. Your surroundings though remain the same: you still exist within a box. Its shape is different, but its essential characteristics are the same: square and enclosed. Travelling through the length of the corridor you perceive that there are numerous other rooms all placed one beside another in sets of two-- on parallel with the other, and you are travelling parallel in between them both. There is nothing interesting to be discovered in any these rooms that you haven't already discovered in the room you just left, so you continue along the dimly lit, trash littered corridor to it's end.

At the end of the hall you find that you can go either up or down. That's it, you move up or you travel down. "why can't I move freely?" is the next question that your mind screams. There is no immediate answer to this heart-felt question, and you cannot see if any way to answer it either. Thus, like a video being rewound and replayed, you find yourself with unexpressed emotions again. Like the existence you have found yourself to be in, these powerful emotionsare not free to move as they should. Emotion--you-- emotion, is bound. Like a prisoner in acage, big enough to move in, but small enough to be restricted, emotion is trapped within your own mind. Thus, the junction here that forces you to chose between going only up or down affords you, once again, the opportunity to free the raw and uncontrollable emotion building up in your own mind. It seems that emotion, or possibly this emotion, or able to be released upon a decision as to which way to travel: up or down--and there is no right or wrong in the emotion's freedom. With the same instinct that moved you to scream, you are moved upwards. As you step towards the decision you made, again the emotion that you felt growing within you is released. There is no sound though, only movement. The decision you made to move up effects everything, because your emotion once again travels with relentless consistency in an evergrowing ball-like wave of energy.

The scenery around you, again, changed very little. There is more detail in the shape of the floor, plus it directs you upwards. Uninterested in how the floor seems to propel you or guide your travels in an upward direction, your focus is upon the top of the stairs. There is a definite presence of light not like any anything you have seen yet. This light is pulling you, and you definitely feel attracted to the light at the top of the stairs. You feel this compelling attraction towards the light even though there is a solid barrier-like obstacle between you and this light. As you near this door of wood that keeps most of the light out of this short and rather dark stairwell, you start sensing another collection of emotions.

When you reach the top step you touch the barrier. It is cold, but the light which streams through the bottom of this door seems somehow warm. It is at this point that you notice the emotions growing again inside of your mind. They are as powerful as the previous encounters with emotion, except that you are now, through experience and awareness, able to understand more about what these emotions are. To your astonishment you discover that these emotions are a dynamic collection your still untold expressions. These things which have propelled you to where you are now are actually more a part of you than not. you become aware, through looking at these new emotions, and recalling the last time you expressed yourself, that you are expanding yourself through the release of your own emotions. As each burst of emotion was released you realized now that it was not actually an emotion being freed , rather it was you being freed. The existence you have found yourself in, you have noticed, is extremely confining. Your freedom is limited in too many ways to identify--all you know is that you are indeed trapped. The emotions, and only these, have been your attempt, though you were not aware of this until now, to actually free yourself.

Now this realization brings with it new limitless levels of awareness. You thus stop for a moment to think about your own freedom--the emotions which are still growing within your own mind. You realize that the nature of emotion necessitates freedom--they are not therefor meant to be trapped. The previous encounters that you have had with emotion has been contrary to their perfect expression. There is no need to hold onto your own emotions; they are as free as you feel you should be. Moving to free your emotions, you grasp the knob that sits just below the centre of the door on it left side you push open the barrier between yourself and the light outside. As you step into the light, emotion--your emotion--starts to drift out of your body, or so it seems. There is no great burst of energy this time, instead what you feel is similar to a lit firecracker that never explodes.

A sense of loss washes over you, pushing you to your knees. While your body loses its will to stand, you rest your head in your hands in a slouched over posture. Moments pass by without notice. Then you timidly lift your head to once again take into your mind the scene before you. Looking up you see a heavy-looking, but incredibly high ceiling which seems to goon without end in all directions. The surface of this ceiling glows an eerie shade of yellowish-grey, reflected from the amazing display of florescent and neon lights. Everywhere that you look you see bright lights. Some light are flashing on and off, other lights glow in tantalizing and hypnotic shades of blue, red, green, and yellow in unimaginable shapes and sizes. There are also massive structures of incredible hight, some actually rising above the glowing, grey ceiling that stretches across the sky. All these tall, unmoving monuments are also well illuminated. The light, though, comes from within to light up the outside of the numerous other buildings, each on lighting the other, creating an entire picture of artificial brightness. The sounds that come rising up from the unseen ground below are intense. Laughing and screaming fills the air, and though these sound are the dominant sounds, they can not overpower the other sounds of movement: engines, horns, and squeals and screeches. All these sounds come up to you in a constant overwhelming blast of noise. The smells that first confronted you inside were indeed nauseating, but since you were inside it was understandable that there would be such an odour. But out here, in the open, and still there is a stench that is incredibly powerful. The smell of dirt and pollution are so strong out here, that you can actually taste them.

These sights, sounds and smells are too overwhelming. "this can not be a place were I can be free", you think to yourself. "For what am I here", you hear yourself asking out loud. You feel completely lost. What hope you had felt while walking up the stairs has been completely crushed. The dominant emotion that is emanating from your body is now despair. Although the emotion that is now flowing in, through and out of you is not a pleasant one, to say the least, a sense of well-being starts to will up within you. As this feeling of wholeness grows stronger, you realize again that emotion needs to be continuously acknowledged and expressed. Despite ste strong emotion of loss and despair, you sill feel strong simply because these emptiness are free.

Slowly, but without fear, you get off of your knees. Standing up on both feet once again, you move slowly forward. Stopping again you start to slowly turn your entire body around, and lifting both of your arms into the air you start to yell. Softly at first, then as the emotion in you yell builds up, it gets lauder. Continuing to increase the intensity of your yelling, you turn your entire body faster and faster so that all you see around you is rapidly moving lights, and all you hear is the intensity of you own voice. This invigorating movement gives you a sense of freedom. These alien and overwhelming sights, sounds and smells which tried to control you are not able to steal your freedom from you. These actions are the natural response to the experiences you are having.

Further, you can feel your emotion, both powerful and intense, freely leaving your body. They expand all around you engulfing and permanently affecting everything they come into contact with. Thus as your emotions continue to emanate out of our body, not just through your movement, but through every pour, cell and atom of your body, you start to experience true freedom. You realize that emotion moves and exists without regard for boundaries. Just as you and your emotion are one and the same, so you too exist without illusory boundaries. Each confrontation with external control from your inception in the room was a learning experience.

At first you were confused, you lived in a world of matter and absolute confinement. You felt as though all movement and thought was controlled by and through the experience of your existence. Emotions, being your teacher and guide in this place, showed you that these boundaries are penetrable, and with an explosion they shattered their confinement. Movement was placed within your own control, and emotions, again acting as you teacher, showed you that self-expression is a way to over come certain boundaries through your own movement. Slowly you came to understand that emotions, though acting as a guide, are also an expression of yourself. Thus, freedom was brought that much closer, in that your emotions, which are boundless, are an expression of who you are. This realization brought great joy and hope. You moved on with the desire to experience emotions. Then experience once again snapped from you the sense of freedom that was just born within you--you were horrified by this world that you saw. There seemed to be nothing natural or beautiful in this existence, and the desire forfreedom was quelched. Thus began the final lesson.

With this lesson's completion, which it almost is now, you learn that all emotions allow you to be free. The feeling of despair was not, in reality, a new sort of prison. The momentary loss of even a desire to move was another indirect attempt by this place to confine and trap you. But as your emotions continued to flow freely from your existence, you again came to the realization that there is no prison nor experience capable of confining nor quelshing your freedom. Emotion is as free as you allow it to be, and you analogously are as free as your emotions are.

With freedom as your consort, and the guidance and movement of emotion, you start to move your body again. Looking around, you decide that you will walk towards the edge of the roof you have found yourself upon. You walk boldly, without fear, towards the sort wall encircling the roof-top. Then stepping upon the wall you look down into the noise and lights of the city below. Again you are astonished by what you see. Below you is what can only be described as chaos being confined. There is the movement of hundreds of docile vehicles, all lit with white and red lights, moving in rows going, stopping, turning and going again to places that you don't know nor can you imagine. Right beside the buildings that reached up to the sky above you, on the ground far below are hundreds of people moving from place to place. Fromon this roof-top the scene below is the epitome of aimless movement.

Not wanting to be distracted by the scene below, you focus on the emotions moving freely within and from your body. You can practically see these emotions now. They move continuously, so it seems to you, with direction and purpose. As the force of your emotions reach the ground below they seem to dissipate int the moving masses of people below. Continuously your emotions move and disappear int the chaos below. Believing that you are as free as your emotions are, you decide to step off of the roof. As you fall towards the ground you feel and enjoy the same freedom that your emotions have.