049 Compartmentalising one’s emotions

  • Living in the moment or evading problem?

About three weeks ago, a friend Ms. Loo joined me for a morning walk. The air was fresh, the scenery was beautiful and the company of a like-minded friend was great.

A picture taken at Mount Austin Golf Resort.

I told her,

“I realise that as we get older, we become better at compartmentalising our emotions. At this moment, I am truly enjoying the brisk walk with you. Yet, moments before you came, my heart was weighing heavily because of some matters.

It were as if I have tucked my troubles away in a separate compartment and become free from worries. I feel fully engaged with this moment of tranquility and companionship. I remember that it was much harder to separate emotions when we were younger.”

Ms Loo, a Buddhist believer, smiled with approval. She said, “You are becoming better at living in the moment. There is no short of worries in life. We all have to learn not to carry worries with us all the time. Learn to let things go and focus on the present.”

Picture above: Ms Loo called me “shifu” (master) at work; but in reality, she teaches me more.

And we went on sharing how we dealt with worries in life. I gained a lot of insight from Ms Loo’s sharing that morning. It is always a joy to glean wisdom from meaningful conversations with friends.

  • Learn to see your problem in another light

There was, however, something wrong in the way I was compartmentalising my emotions. The troubles remained unresolved as they were merely contained. I know I have to face them sooner or later. Compartmentalising only offers temporary relief. I wonder if I were evading my issues on the pretext of living in the moment.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

I know that time is a powerful change agent, but it did not feel right to simply cast problems aside and wish that they would go away over time. Yet, constant worrying over woes wouldn’t help either. I spoke to an old friend Hian Pin, who told me candidly,

“Perhaps you are doing it wrongly. Living in the moment isn’t about splitting your life into different compartments. It is about being in a state of mindfulness: you learn to appreciate fully the experiences that are occurring in that instant.”

As Hian Pin spoke, it dawned on me that compartmentalising emotions is not about being in denial; it’s about putting things into different perspectives and appreciate that there is more than one way to see a problem. In doing so, even though the issues never go away, our view of the problem has utterly changed.

In life, when things get seriously rough at some point of time, it can be very difficult to maintain a peace of mind. I think the ability to put away the hurt is necessary to gain new light on how to deal with the problems later.

A picture taken from the window of my bedroom.

The key is when we shift our attention away from our troubles, we must not squander the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and discover what we fully value. Only a real change in ourselves will prepare us better to face difficulties that used to seem so insurmountable.

I am so fortunate to have friends who share candidly with me precious life lessons when I needed them most. Thank you!

William W. K. Tan

21 June 2018


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