“There’s nothing you can do, doctor, I’m excessively nervous.”
“I was born very emotional, I’ll probably never be able to change that.”
“I’ve always had nerves on edge, I’ll have to live my whole life like that.”
Stories of abandonment and helplessness in the face of being able to control your nerves and emotions, I hear every day. The vast majority of people truly believe that there is nothing they can do and that is unfortunate because it is absolutely not true. It is these testimonies that led me to write this book in order to provide these people with the necessary means to finally live happier.
Nerves or emotions can be controlled. We saw in the first chapter that emotions are automatically acquired reactions just like our other habits. We do not come into the world nervous or emotional. We learn through our learning and education to react emotionally to facts and situations around us. Just like our other habits, we acquire them and, very interestingly, we can also lose them.
I don’t get it.
A man comes into my office. He is slightly overweight. He is 34 years old. He explains to me that he doesn’t usually have a problem with his diet except for the occasional weird, totally unexplainable craving. The day before his visit to the office, he had just had one. It was after an outing to the theater with his wife, a very interesting and successful evening, that, back at home, the craving manifested itself. Upon further questioning this man, he finally confessed that he loves the theater very much but that every time he sets foot in a theater, he feels an inexplicable uneasiness.
“Deep down, I feel bad for the actors. And you make me think that after every visit to a theater, I have one of those famous ridiculous cravings.”
The first link in the chain was found: his food cravings came on the heels of an emotion, of this feeling of unease he had for the actors.
When I asked him about his past, he told me that as a teenager he played the piano. One day, he had been asked to accompany a young chansonnier at his debut. The night of the performance, he was of course very nervous. The hall was crowded, the announcer introduced the singer. He started the first measures on the piano and suddenly the shelf that holds the scores fell down, it was a catastrophe. A great burst of laughter flies from the room. Our pianist is overwhelmed with emotion, he puts the shelf and the scores back and starts his musical intro again. Needless to say that the whole show was painful for our musician.
As he told me his story, I could see that he now understood his bizarre behavior better. More than 15 years later, every time he set foot in a concert hall, even if he didn’t consciously make the connection with his past experience, he automatically relived the same emotion or almost.
That’s the way it is with human beings. The emotions we experience are all stored in our brain. The following example will help us understand how our emotions are stored in our subconscious. You may remember the phonographs that were found in some restaurants or dance halls. The records were lined up and, at your command, an arm would come and pick up the desired record to play it. In our brain, our emotions are engraved like on a record and are waiting to be played. As soon as something happens that reminds us of the recorded emotion, the old record will automatically be played with its old intensity. Memory plays no role in this mechanism. Whether you remember the past incident or not, it is automatically and without any conscious control that the old record will play, that is to say that you will relive your old emotion.
Another important fact to remember is that the intensity of the fact that triggers this mechanism may be derisory, quite minimal compared to the original situation. As long as the fact reminds you, even unconsciously, of the past emotion, it is the old emotional reaction that will be expressed with almost the same intensity. You may have witnessed the reaction of someone who has just lost their dog. I have often seen emotional reactions almost as violent as if the person had just lost a close relative or child. Once the mechanism is triggered, it is as if the old record is playing.
Also, even though sometimes people can’t understand their emotional reactions right away, it doesn’t mean that there is no explanation or solution.