Let’s be honest with each other…no one enjoys feeling negative emotions. It’s not that they can’t be useful or shouldn’t ever be present; but they just don’t feel good. So what does it mean to live life without a buffer? If we were to boil it down to it’s simplest form, it’s the willingness to feel any emotion on the human spectrum of emotions–all the positive AND all the negative. It’s the skillset of feeling emotions and not trying to dampen them with external things.
We use buffers to “soften the blow” or completely avoid negative emotion. Almost anything can be used as a buffer:
- Food (hello to my fellow emotional eaters!) 🍕🍔🧀🥩🍣🍤🍦🍪
- Alcohol 🍶🍾🍷🍸🍹🍺
- Drugs 💊
- Porn/Sex 🍑🍆💻
- TV 📺
- Phone 📱📶🤳🏼
- Having a full calendar or constantly helping others 📅👋🏼🤝🏼🙏🏼
- You’re probably like “wait, what?! How is having a full calendar and helping others a bad thing?” We often like to keep ourselves busy and occupied so we don’t have to address what is really happening inside our brain. We avoid and ignore it (usually until we get physically ill). Like I said, ANYTHING can be used as a buffer.
None of these things are either good or bad–they are neutral until we consciously or subconsciously choose how to use them. Are we using these things to dampen our emotions so that we don’t have to feel the negative stuff. Again, we as humans want to avoid negative emotion(s).
Another reason we buffer with things like I mentioned above, is because our brain chemistry. Any time we partake of these activities, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is considered to be the “pleasure chemical”. Have you ever had a rough day, you come home make yourself a drink or snack and as soon as you take your first drink or bite, you feel a sense of relief/release/pleasure? Yeah, that’s because your brain released dopamine into your body. Any time we get a like or comment on social media, any time we have sex, any time we binge our favorite TV show, any time we play and win a game, dopamine gets released. We are surrounded by ways to get pleasure.
In today’s society, with all of our technological advances, we want instant gratification (yes, I’m including Boomers and Gen X’ers in this as well). By tapping into our dopamine (especially with the amount of sugar and other shit we eat in the US), we become addicted. If you’ve ever tried to go cold turkey on not having something that you’re used to having every day, you know the feeling of withdrawal…and it doesn’t feel good. So what do most people do? Go back to buffering with whatever it was they were doing.
Most people do not fall under the generic definition of addict. However, any of our buffering taken to an extreme can easily become an addiction. For most people though, the ones we don’t consider addicts, this is just what we do. We participate in these things to make ourselves feel better–to get that dopamine hit–to feel that pleasure so we can feel better.
Now that we understand what buffering is, how the brain reinforces buffering behavior, and our developed over-desire, let’s talk about the 50/50 concept. This is one of my favorite topics to talk about because it brings SO MUCH PERSPECTIVE.
50% of our life is going to be filled with happiness, joy, contentment, and all other positive emotions. The other 50% of our life is going to be filled with sadness, grief, despair, and all the other negative emotions. A lot of us have been led to believe that we should be striving for 100% happiness all the time–positive emotions only. So that is what we do–we strive, and work, and spend out entire lives trying to obtain something that isn’t realistic. People don’t necessarily say that is what they are striving for; however, it becomes apparent when you’re talking to people about their problems or struggles that 100% happiness is indeed what they are searching for.
The 50/50 Concept
Life truly is 50/50–we’re going to have positive emotions AND negative emotions. And guess what? The world has always been like this, 50/50! There’s always been war/conflict, famine, death. There’s always been joy, happiness, and pride. But now that we have the internet, social media, and the 24 hour news circuit, we are so much more aware of it than our ancestors were.
This is something we need to keep in mind as we are on social media where everyone is posting the highlights of their life. This is where we reinforce that we “should be happy all the time” or “their life is so much cooler than mine.” B*tch, our lives are more than just a highlight reel!! It truly is 50% good and 50% bad–always has been and always will be.
To help bring this concept home, I want to introduce you to the scale of human emotion:
0 is completely neutral. Negative numbers correlate to negative emotions with intensity growing from -1 to -10. As you guessed or assumed, it’s the same with the positive side = positive emotions with intensity growing from +1 to +10.
When we buffer or dampen our emotions, we are limiting how far we feel on the emotional scale. If you’re only willing to feel a -3 emotion (ex. sadness), then the most you are open to feeling on the positive side is a +3 (ex. contentment). Look at the scale above and see how much of life you are missing out on! In order to feel the amazingness that is +10 (ex. elated), you have to be willing and open to feeling the emotions of a -10 (ex. devastation).
I love looking at emotions this way, using the scale; because as a visual learner it is so clear to see what I may be missing out on OR celebrate how much I’m willing to feel. It helps measure progress. This visual shows us the capacity of our lives! We don’t want to hinder our lives because we’re afraid of feeling bad. And when we feel bad, then we judge ourselves on top of that.
With all of that, I want to state that even when we buffer, we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up about it. If we partake in buffering in whatever form we choose, we can choose to have love and compassion for ourselves–especially if we’re starting on a new journey to learning about emotions and harnessing them to get what we want in life.
But when we buffer, we’re not willing to go there. So we have to have compassion because we are not perfect. There’s no expectation to be perfect. My fellow perfectionists, you hear me? Notice that no part of this concept touches on perfection because it’s not a real thing. As we go through life, we will buffer; we will mess up.
I hope this was helpful for you in learning how to live life without a buffer. This is something I am constantly working on for myself. If you are tired of living a numbed out life that feels like it’s on autopilot, come work with me. This work will absolutely change your life.
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