Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crying in movies

Kathy's blog about tears sparked a flood of thoughts about emotions and how much I still do not value them.  Well, I don't really value mine...

A few nights ago, I was watching a movie that I didn't really think would have been much good. A harmless chick flick about a summer romance, but in it, the protagonist's father dies from a terminal illness.  I had an unreasonably strong reaction (there's the judgement again!) to the movie.  I cried, and cried.  I cried about missing my grandmother, about time passing and moments that I wished I had handled differently, about Isaiah's 15 hour work day and the very few moment we have when we are both awake, and anything else I could throw into the mix. 

Don't Trust Emotions!
As I read Kathy's post, it occurred to me that I don't express many of my emotions unless prompted in some way.  Well, not true, I do express joy more frequently than I used to.  Even that was more difficult at one point.  When I say prompting, I mean what happens when the children repeatedly push my buttons, or when I watch a movie displaying emotions I had been suppressing.

I grew up learning that emotions were not rational and shouldn't be trusted.  Can't make a good decision in the 'heat of the moment'.  As a teen, I packed them all away.  Crying was a waste of time, and I didn't feel a steady stream of happy feelings.  I remember wanting to cry at 18 and realizing that I didn't know how.  Maybe it took me a few months of giving myself permission to cry before I actually did, and it was hardly more than a tear in my eye.

People have always valued my steady head.  They could trust me not to fall apart in situations so they could tell me anything.  I didn't rant, flip out, or become overcome by any emotion.  Note I said I didn't.

Emotions Everywhere

In the past 15 years, I decided that growth can happen in all areas of a person's life, including emotionally.  So a clear logical thinking adult at work gets discombobulated because someone said something about her that she didn't like.  What's that about?  She doesn't know, probably because the side of her that curiously looks at her feelings hasn't gotten much attention.  That side of me hadn't gotten much attention either.  Slowly, as I peeled back the layers that I had put my emotions under, they floated to the surface.  It was like allowing a pest to run around the house and setup breeding camps in unknown corners.  I would find them everywhere.  Open a drawer, out pops an emotion.  Pick up a baby, another scurries across the room.  They were unwelcome guests.

I do understand myself better and have developed safe spots to show my emotions, safe places to let it all hang out.  Thought, even when I let it all out, it's a calculated 'let it out'.  I don't trust my emotions enough to see where they could go.  I think I'm afraid I'll say or do something I could regret, and I think caution there is reasonable.  It's just that I can't have my cake and eat it too.  I won't throw a tantrum, and I won't run around screaming in glee (well, maybe in my mind).

Thinking About Thinking
In recent years, I've begun to see my emotions differently.  I had to call it 'intuition' though.  My 'feelings' about things, especially my 'gut' feelings have become very important.  Usually, I have clear, supporting thoughts about my feelings, so all is well with the world.  My clear thinking can be like a crutch.  When my emotions are not accompanied with this crutch of choice, I'm dazed.  What do I do with this,... this... feeling?? 

I'm realizing that maybe my emotions are just different kinds of thoughts.  Some thoughts generate pictures, some words, some feelings, and some carry the various combinations of them.  So what makes a 'picture' thought more lucid than a 'feeling' thought?

Now that I'm thinking about all this (in living color, feelings, words and all), the idea that I should be cautious with feeling my feelings is unfounded.  The lie goes something like 'crazy feelings, when allowed to run full reign take over my body and cause me to behave in crazy ways'.  Yet, the issue isn't in feeling the feelings, it's in acting out the feelings. I think my fair share of crazy thoughts, yet I'm not afraid they will take over my mind or anything.  I just stop thinking them because I don't want to anymore.  I'm clear that no matter what I think, what I do is my decision to make.  I don't do every crazy thing that shows up in my mind as a picture or word thought.  So why would I act out crazy feeling thoughts? 

Avoiding my feelings is poles apart from the idea of exploring my feelings.  I get to change the ones I know how to change, but even more important for me, I get to develop comfort with the ones I don't yet know how to change.  Curious exploration is a more useful path to understanding anyway.  I find that I don't take the time to truly understand something, if I don't first experience comfort with it.

This all takes us to today.  I'm reading wonderful old novels with the kids, and when the horse wins the race, or the little boy learns to read, I want to burst into tears.  I don't, but maybe I might, Kathy.  In my day to day life, I'm experiencing giddy ecstasy, extreme anger, numbing frustration, and I'm often not sure what to do with myself.  This is the me I've created, this girl with more emotional .... experiences?  I'm getting to know this side of me and am learning that I don't always have to have a clear, well articulated thought about something I feel, sense.  Like Zachary (my 6 year old) I can say when asked 'I can't answer that right now'.  I can even say that to myself, and be comfortable and happy.

What feelings are you uncomfortable feeling? How come?

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