Monday, 29 August 2005

An Intimate Confession About Emotions

To the surprise of myself, a short article in the showbiz section of Apple Daily, the notorious Chinese-language tabloid in Hong Kong launched 10 years ago, has stirred up my emotions to an unexpected extent – so much so that I was driven to the brink of tears upon reading it, and am still feeling upset after a couple of hours.

While it may not seem surprising to a few close friends, I find it somewhat difficult to believe how much my emotions have been attached and "manipulated" over the last couple of months. I find it equally difficult to believe that I can be so indifferent to some of the social injustice extensively reported in the local media, such as the recent cold-blooded stabbing of a seven-year-old boy in Kwai Chung, while I have been so overwhelmed by someone I do not personally know and has been so far away from me, both physically and culturally.

Over all these years, I have seen myself and been seen as a discreet, rational and cool-headed person, who can always maintain a certain degree of sense no matter how excited or emotional I am. But I am increasingly convinced that such a belief or public image is no more than an illusion founded on thin air. Emotions are getting more and more difficult to manage, and their impact a more and more intricate challenge to overcome that will certainly take longer and harder efforts.

When I declared victory over my struggle against anguish over my father's death in 1988, which took about 10 years, I thought I would be strong enough to meet any emotional challenge ahead. I am no longer afraid of showing my emotions, provided that the setting is appropriate and allows me to do so, and I am convinced that only by vent can I manage the impact of emotions effectively. Throughout these years, this strategy has worked out well. I have enjoyed all sorts of emotional moments with friends or alone, and yet without being dragged into the abyss of getting lost and helpless.

Perhaps I have become excessively confident, and it is time to teach me a lesson.

Emotional disturbance has never been a problem for me until about two years ago, when I found myself so vulnerable faced with depression and frustration in various contexts – about work, about life, and about someone I adore and admire to an extent that I wasn't consciously aware of. I have been trying extremely hard to identify the root causes, and yet to no avail. While the darkest hour has passed and everything seems nothing more than remote memories, I am still tempted to think the core mystery buried deep inside the labyrinth remains to be deciphered. Occasional reminders like the Apple Daily article today remind me from time to time some weaknesses in the bottom of my heart that still require conscious attention.

Emotions are just like crises. You can't prevent them from happening, and the best scenario is to manage them properly so that they won't to do too much harm to oneself and the people around. Of course, emotions can be positive, but in most cases it is negative emotions, be they depression, frustration, hopelessness and even loneliness, that can easily inflate and exaggerate to unmanageable and even devastating levels. The most challenging and yet the most important thing is to let the emotions come and go, and keep them in control rather than let them take over. It just seems that it now takes much longer for me to take control over emotions and keep them in check. What a daunting task...

Close friends have told me that I have too much of a burden, which I have not been aware of, or subconsciously failed to recognise, until last year. Speaking in terms of my beloved ones, I was told that I share similar traits with them here and there that at least explain some of the reasons why I have found them so irresistibly charming and adorable.

I am most grateful to my friends' insights and kind words, and can't help scratching my head again and again to see if there has been anything wrong with my regular self reviews, during which I failed to realise these subtle issues. There is still a long way to go to figure out how these issues should be tackled, but at least I have been shown to the seemingly right direction. While I don't think I will have the wisdom of abandoning all emotions and holding to the primitive simplicity that my favourite philosopher Laozi advocated, his teachings are by all means a useful reference for emotionally disturbed people of this hybrid post-modern world.

Well, perhaps it's time to pick up Laozi again to see if there is any clue to resolve the core mystery.

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