I’ve always felt as though I’m too emotional. Particularly as a teenager. But let’s face it, teenagers are always ‘too’…whatever they’re going through. Throughout my life, this feedback has rolled in, mostly from parents as I’m in some meltdown or another. Sometimes from partners. Rarely from girlfriends because, well, we’re all just trying to manage the crazy aren’t we?
It’s confusing when the rush of love or shame or rage or fear that floods through our experience feels more intense than is warranted. ‘I shouldn’t feel this way’ or ‘I should be above this’ or ‘I should be over this by now’ or some other version of the inner narrative says…
These emotions are not okay.
Cool, calm, collected and rational are like our cultural holy grail and this post here is about calling bullshit on that whole thing.
We’re emotional beings. We don’t make decisions rationally, we make them emotionally. We don’t want what we want because of our thinking minds, we want what we want because we think that if we get it, we’ll feel a certain way.
Our emotional selves are running the show and there’s a lot of energy spent on trying to keep the flood at bay. In fact, when I feel into my fellow humans, I can feel just how much of the actions, contractions and behaviours are really about trying to not feel something or manage and overcome an emotional state. Over the years I haven’t struggled with my emotional self, I’ve battled. It’s been a full blown war. ‘I’m too much’ has been carved so deeply into my psyche that the more I’ve tried to wrangle, push down, manage or contain my arising emotional experience, the hotter it all gets.
Some people have one or two emotions that can get the better of them. Fly into a rage perhaps, or feel afraid much of the time.
Not me….nope, by some divine grace I feel everything.
Sometimes I’ll be sitting there minding my own business and I’ll think about my family, how much I love and appreciate them and the rush of love is so fierce that I burst into tears and sob and sob.
When I was pregnant with my son, I was driving along and was in the wrong lane, I was trying to change lanes but it was one of those times when everyone in the other lane has been lined up there forever and they all look straight ahead and pretend they don’t see you and inch closer to the car in front of them because heaven forbid we actually lighten up and help a neighbour out. So this guy lets me in and smiles and waves and gratitude takes over. Like TAKES OVER. And I’m sobbing and sobbing and sobbing because of this stranger’s kindness. Of course we can blame this on pregnant lady hormones. I sure did. Just like women (and men) like to blame emotional flux on PMS or some kind of external stress that leads to a breaking point, all the while, in that breaking point is the ‘I shouldn’t feel this way’ song.
WTF? Really? It’s time we all got an emotional education. ‘Too emotional’ isn’t real. Doesn’t exist. Sorry.
That’s not to say that when someone is feeling emotion intensely and they explode that emotion all over everyone else that it’s cool. Nor does it mean that being overtaken and paralyzed by emotion is very productive. But making emotions the problem is totally misguided. The problem here, as counterintuitive as it may sound, is not allowing yourself to truly feel what you feel.
Feeling more, leaning in, and opening to our emotional selves is what makes the difference.
I’m not cool, calm and collected, I AM RED HOT AND FULL HEARTED. But that doesn’t mean I’m all over the place, or out of control or unable to contain what’s happening. It’s through opening to my emotions, being curious, loving and surrendering to the fullness of my experience that I actually have more containment. When practicing with and being accepting of our feelings, we become more spacious. As we become more spacious, more intense emotion can arise without taking us out. People who are ‘too emotional’ are generally just not very emotionally developed, meaning there’s not enough space within them to allow for emotion to come and go. The felt experience of that is, as the intensity builds, the ability to act and not react, wanes. Once we’re in a reaction that we can’t contain, it feels like we need to clamp down on and manage the arising emotion. But if we can actually make more space for the emotion, it can arise and run and move and be within us without us having to DO anything about it.
I must say, being someone who’s spent a lot of time contracting around her feelings, trying to manage herself…it’s painful and lonely and takes a lot of energy. As someone now who feels even more deeply than ever before and can hold the enormity of those feelings, I actually have the experience of being more in control, more rooted and steady and able to invite deeper connection and intimacy into my life. I also am a lot less concerned about sharing with someone that I feel vulnerable or tender or angry or ashamed or whatever is arising because I no longer interpret this inner experience as being something that is wrong or inappropriate or needs to be ‘handled’.
It’s almost as though we’re in a massive collective conspiracy that no one wants to know how each other is really feeling. But we actually do. It feels scary to open to emotion and certainly to let others into the mess of things at times, but there’s actually a ton of safety there. When we’re really intimate with our emotional selves and can share that with one another, there are openings for connection, care, tenderness and empathy. We’re desperate for that. And there’s no shame in feeling desperate for that.