Acting On Impulse

When was the last time you acted on impulse, say for example, bought something you didn’t need but loved, perhaps also with the knowledge that you could take it back to the shop if you changed your mind…but oh, the thrill of the purchase with the corresponding emotional kick!

That’s the thing about acting on impulse: it’s always driven by an emotion; a feeling or a sensation. But what actually drives our emotions? There are many different mental processes that combine to produce an emotional effect, but at the core of any emotion is ENERGY. As a living organism we are simply concerned with managing our basic energy level and all of our energy levels, whether directly related to physical, physiological or psychological activity, are the origin of how we feel. These energy levels are constantly changing as we adapt ourselves to the demands of life and whatever our energy ‘reading’ it registers within us as a ‘feeling’, creating a veritable spectrum of sensation. In order to determine the emotion, our brain interprets this sensation via our sense of perception of this moment (now), our prediction of how it will affect us (future) and our memory of any relevant previous experience (past). Bearing all this in our mind, it reaches a conclusion and assigns an emotional category to the experience of this feeling. We then begin to attach a narrative to it so that we can ‘reason’ with the way we feel; literally, make some sense of the sensation.

Impulse buying, driven by any emotional state has the safety net of a returns policy. We know that we can come back next week and return the dress, shoes, hi-tech gadget or whatever takes our emotional fancy at the time. But there are times when we act on impulse and we can’t take it back: things we say or do to others or ourselves.

In the past, when I’ve spoken to people about the topic of suicide, it appears there is the assumption by many that anyone who considers or attempts to take their own life must have been suffering with mental health issues, in particular depression, for quite some time beforehand. This may indeed be the case in some circumstances, but it is not always. Sometimes, where perception is distorted, prediction see only threat and there is no previous experience to refer back to, we can create the mistaken belief that this impulsive act will resolve our extremely uncomfortable emotional experience. (I call it a mistaken belief because, as a yoga teacher I understand and relate human behaviour to Patanjali’s Obstacles.) Because this emotional experience is so uncomfortable, so far away from any recognised emotional category on the sensation spectrum, we struggle to reconcile or reason with it. The problem, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is that there is no returns policy on this kind of impulsive act. It is impossible to take it back.

Papyrus is a charitable organisation dedicated to the prevention of young suicide. Young people are often more prone to this sort of impulsive act and there may be any number of different reasons for this, but as a result of the past 14 months and the continuation of threat to their future, right now young people are extremely vulnerable. We may all fantasise at some point in our life about saving someone’s life, but Papyrus actually do. They are one of two mental health charities I am supporting through the Coffee Break Meditation sessions (the other is Solent Mind). The Coffee Break Meditation sessions start on Saturday 10th July at 11.15am both in the studio (£8) and online (£3.50). If you would like to attend the studio session you must book beforehand and arrive at 11am to pay and get your coffee mug! You then take it across the road to Retro Cafe for your free coffee. The theme for the first session is True Potential, so please join us to help this amazing charity to fulfil their potential, and remember...