At base level, we are largely composed of water; at the base emotional level, our emotions ebb and flow like the tides of the large bodies of water upon our planet.
A basic truth is that we cannot control either source of water, though we do have some level of control over its expression in the physical universe.
We can surf waves, or run away from them; we can frolic joyously in their troughs and shriek wildly at the oncoming peaks; we can avoid the beach altogether or sit at the top shivering and weep whenever a smidgen of salty water touches our toes.
What we cannot do is to make waves disappear. They are an essential cleansing system in nature. They advance and retreat in their own time and for their own reasons. They are not under our control and no amount of skillful work on slim board, standing erect and whooping in delight, can change that fundamental fact.
Waves can be terrifying, especially when towering high or so destructive that they become tsunami and carry away more than they give. But in the main they are, if not open to puny human wrenching on the reins of power, at least a kind of vast toilet flushing system: Like a largest privy in the world, they whoosh in, grab the crap and zoom out again, leaving a scoured beach – and, of course, a tide mark.
If we turn our backs on the power of water, and hope that it will drain away, become static, stop rolling, we are going to be hit in the spine, bowled over and then engulfed in the falling of the spirited, and indifferent, wave. It cares nothing for our denial, our fear, our pretence that it does not exist or that we can battle it successfully and win. We, to the wave, have no more significance than the shining shells, the corpses of sea creatures, the detritus left by careless humankind.
So it is with emotions, especially the ‘dark’ ones. Humans have a tendency to turn their backs upon them, to pretend they are not there; to assume that, if they stay away from the beach – or live in an area miles from the sea, they will be safe from high-water onslaught. Some boast vaingloriously about their surfing prowess and convince their listeners that it would take an unnaturally powerful sea surge to frighten them or knock them off their boards.
But nobody has the magical ability to harness the waves, let alone to stop them, freeze them in their tracks, make them retreat.
Riding the waves, or the emotions, is an excellent option nonetheless – as long as the rider does not fall into the hubristic and false glory of assuming that a soaringly successful ride means the wave coming up behind will slink away in shame and terror; as long as the rider does not confuse skimming the wave with superior strength of mind and morals.
We can withstand many emotional waves; we can be knocked down countless times and come up, spitting out salty water and scared; but that water will never stop and the very next wave could drag us down to our doom and never vomit us back up again.
On the smaller scale, putting a finger up a leaking tap, hoping this will stop the flow, is unwise and pointless: It does not stop the problem and the build-up of pressure can be far more dangerous and explosive than the original trickle.
Rigid control of emotions, damming up all the leaks, does not make them vanish, no matter how much we might wish it did. As with the tap metaphor, the backlash can be severe once our emotional waves find a small hole and surge through.
We cannot control our emotions. We can control the outward expression of them, but that is often a double-edged sword. We can only hop, as yet another towering wave curls high above, that its crashing upon the beach will not be too destructive and that, when it ebbs, it will carry the flotsam and jetsam with it.