October in Emotion

Do we choose our emotions or do they choose us? This year I explored that question, spending significant time and conversation considering the control (or lack thereof) that people believe they have over their feelings from day to day. I was surprised by how many people say they experience great consistency among their emotions over days and weeks, like an unfolding landscape. My experience is much more like living on a surfboard between gorgeous sunrises and spontaneous windstorms. Such volatility may sound daunting, but until this year I naively assumed it was shared among most of humanity. And to me, it makes life interesting and poetry possible.

Naturally, I chose to make an art project that doubled as a psychological experiment for self-reflection. During the month of October I created a key of typical emotions and then mapped them daily, based on a predetermined set of colors. At best, the project would lend deep insights based on emotional patterns and correlations. At the very least, I would have a colorful map of October. 

Do moods tend to last for specific durations? Do feelings unfold in some kind of pattern? What do psychologists know about chemicals, hormones and the subconscious mind's influence on conscious emotion?  Upon first reflection, my observations were as follows: I needed more colors, it's extremely rare that two days in a row would share the same dominant emotion, and apparently Thursdays bring out my creative melancholy. Also, I chose a pretty crazy month for this experiment. During November (month two of the project) I tweaked the exercise by adjusting the emotions key and recording two colors each day instead of one in order to explore the relationship between the way that days begin and end.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever done a similar exercise? Have you made any surprising discoveries about the relationship between your emotions from day to day? Want to start doing this with me? If you were to give your dominant emotions custom names, what would they be?

November in Emotion, coming soon!