Monday, October 16, 2017

When you live with BIG emotions

I don't know why I haven't written about it yet, but as a rule, my emotions are strong and many.  I've been described as tenderhearted and as sincere by folks who just met me.  My joy has been rambunctious and contagious (causing embarrassment for others at least once).  My compassion has stopped me in my tracks and kept me from eating.  Along with great feelings comes great heartache and despair.  When I have dark days, they're really dark.  More than once, I've been frustrated with God, at the end of my rope, and incessantly questioning Him about why I'm like this.

My husband is on the opposite end of the spectrum, by the way.  His story and experiences bred mistrust toward emotions in general, which translated to incredulity, frustration, and sometimes fear when I would come to him upset.  Needless to say, we had a hefty share of misunderstandings, hurtful words, and harmful actions between us.

For a few years now, I've gone to counseling, not because big emotions are bad or something to be fixed, but because I needed help handling them.  The process took me to a strange place of trying to place boundaries.  The boundaries helped me separate my emotions from reality and refrain from demanding my husband match my feelings when something was wrong.  The boundaries helped me stand up for myself, too, and kept me from ignoring my feelings and allowing them to be invalidated by others.

Talking out and winnowing down my thoughts into Facts and Feelings columns has helped me see where I might be giving into emotions when I don't have to.  Counseling gave me breathing room and a safe space to lay out and think about all the pieces of a situation instead of having to leap to my own defense against someone with a different perspective.  Both counseling and meditation have given me the tools to recognize and regulate my emotions, which means they overwhelm me less, and as cheesy as it sounds, the workbook Don't Let Emotions Run Your Life has also been really helpful.

For the religious among you who believe humans are created images of God, you'll appreciate how each of us reflect His character in a unique way.  I've found some relief in that belief: "If I hurt this much over the evil in this world, surely God hurts even more.  If I experience such happiness over good things, surely God is even happier."  Understand I'm not comparing myself to the divine, but normalizing my experiences.  Essentially, this is how I'm supposed to be.  Gaining a better grasp on my emotions so they don't blindside me so often is helpful for me and those around me, but the fact that I have such a broad and deep range of emotions is not bad or wrong and does not need to be changed.

Another thing that grounds me and brings clarity is the fact that emotions are the best means for connecting with others.  When I tell you how it hurt me when you made that comment, or when I share my elation over getting to meet a puppy, you get a sense of my experience.  This leads to understanding, and understand and communication are foundations of what relationships are, and I believe relationships will change the world.  If I can be a small part of that, then I'm all in.


I feel much, and I feel it strongly.  Thank goodness I've made peace with who I am.  Double thanks for how my husband has also grown in his acceptance (dare I say, appreciation?).  Here's to emotional intelligence, to growing in understanding, and to being fully human and unafraid.

Allow yourself to be compelled.  Tenderness moves us to action.


Further reading: Living with big emotions by Sara Tasker

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