To Contain a Brain
On the emotional tupperware, the shelf life of emotions, and knowing oneself
The brain is a pretty disobedient organ.
It's sentimental at inconvenient times, intrigued by shiny objects, sad for no reason, etc etc. My brain is especially good at wanting to run 10Ks, but only when about to fall asleep. Right instrumentally useful emotion, wrong time.
In moments like these, I've started to store emotion for later. I call it emotional tupperware.
It's fairly simple. Use writing, drawing, or some other medium to save the emotion for later. For example, my mistimed workout motivation turned into a scheduled email for myself the next morning. For me, these emails nearly have a 100% success rate because unlike generic motivational content, I'm recalling a recent visceral feeling.
On longer time horizons, emotional tupperware can also feel like a conversation with your past self. I like to think that my angsty teenage journals will help me parent a future angsty teen.
When cataloged well, it really feels like I'm selectively extending the shelf life of something that would normally just expire. My Notion docs hold all. I've poured frustrations about bad bosses for when I need to microdose clarity and have laid out grief for when I need to feel extra appreciative of who I still have. No emotion left to waste.
The practice of emotional tupperware also works in reverse. When emotionally sober, I write artifacts for my future self. A couple of my lists include:
- Times I've felt unnaturally lucky
- Videos to remind me of good in the world
- Why you should not commit to Yet Another Thing
My favorite checklist is one I consult when things simply feel off. Its algorithmic simplicity makes me feel like an elementary school student, but it's unreasonably effective:
- Water/food - Have you drank/eaten enough today?
- Exercise - How much better would you feel if you did jumping jacks right now? How about a dance? I find that if I don't work out, I won't feel sluggish today, but the next.
- Temperature - Do you need to put on a layer? Take one off?
- People - Have you helped someone recently?
Those questions are part of my larger "Bliss List", where I include other things that I can materially change in <5 minutes to feel better.
The more I write these simple documents, the more I study myself. It's super interesting! I'm always surprised how little obligation there is to know oneself when in pursuit of academic or professional success. It's even more surprising when someone is boldly in pursuit of knowledge or the unknown, without starting with the body/mind they inhabit. Hopefully this tool is as helpful for you as it was for me :))
In pursuit of clarity and health,