Emotions, happy or sad, are everyday experiences. Your daughter hugged you, and you felt a surge of love. Or you got your reports from an exam you took and did not do so well. Anxiety, stress, and even anger crossed your mind. But pause and think. These emotions occur on occasion. Do you know what you are feeling the rest of the time? Are you feeling anything at all by way of emotion? If so, could you tell without ambiguity what you were feeling?
It turns out that if you take away extreme emotional states, the rest of the time your feelings are more ambivalent. You could feel bored. You could feel restless. You may also be in a position where you cannot recognise your emotions. A scientist could argue that you are in emotional equilibrium or a balanced, neutral condition. You would say it is a great place to be, as I don't have any stress in my life.
It would be hard to put a number to it, but if I were to hazard a guess, 2-3% of your lifetime is spent feeling joy or anger. I use these extreme emotions only to make my point, though of course you would feel a plethora of emotions. The rest of the time, you aren't even thinking about what you are feeling.
Yet, most of our time is spent thinking about the 2-3%, a disproportionate amount of which is spent thinking about the things that caused you anger, stress, and anxiety. The emotions that stress us occupy a disproportional amount of our time and energy.
Historically, this was extremely useful. If you were attacked—animal or human—it was productive to ruminate over it. Perhaps you would discover a way to protect yourself better or escape easily. We have simply become victims of these loopholes in modern society. The attack of the bear has been replaced by the incessant ringing of our phones. How dare she keep calling me again and again? Doesn't she know I am busy?