We live in an emotionally immature world.
For most people, their idea of emotional health is “having a handle on it.” This means they either suppress unwanted emotion through a strong will and/or acceptable addictions like coffee, sugar, work, exercise, shopping, prescription medication or television. Or, they have ways to ‘vent’ unwanted emotion when it ‘builds up,’ such as an athletic activity, a hobby, or a wild night out on the town.
These coping mechanisms make sense historically. Society formed to take the animal out of man; to make our lives more comfortable and permit us to live close together in large cities in peaceful and constructive ways. For the most part our system has worked! Many people live successful and relatively happy lives in this way. Not the rejects, outcasts and addicts… but somewhere deep we assume that is their fault and keep on doing the best we can.
The thing is… in the past century groundbreaking new understandings have emerged that offer us better than “relatively happy.” We no longer have to contort ourselves to fit a mold. We can be successful as the best versions of ourselves — not according to an outside ideal, but according to what fits us.
Emotional suppression, repression and venting are coping mechanisms to stay small and fit in.
In today’s world the rewards for conformity are dreary and fleeting. Truly remarkable people follow a different drummer… they have more courage somehow, and more self-trust. And we need a lot more who are like them.
The world is calling for our creativity and for our courage, both of which require some emotional awareness and equilibrium.
Repressed emotions over a lifetime are like a closet you throw everything into. The closet and it’s contents get dusty. Boxes open, particulars fall behind or slide underneath things. Spiders and bugs find their way in and set up territories.
If you haven’t looked inside that store-all closet for a while it’s overwhelming. It seems much easier to close the door again… BUT if you plunge in and unpack it you will discover memories almost forgotten, recover items you thought were gone forever and have new insights as you move backwards through time.
When the closet has been unpacked and cleaned you realize it was not a storage closet at all! It never was — it is a creative space designed perfectly for your unique genius.
While feeling our emotions honestly is not always comfortable, how you feel is always worth knowing. In partnership with our mind, our emotions help us navigate. They are not a design mistake — we are meant to integrate them.
Emotionally integrated people are naturally compassionate. Empathy allows us to make win-win ethical decisions even in new situations and with strangers.
Sometimes we worry without tight constraints our emotions will lead us astray. It’s true that acting out in anger or revenge can have devastating consequences. Anger only feels overwhelming when it is denied and repressed. It’s like keeping gas under pressure. When we acknowledge healthy anger we don’t have to act on it at all! We mentally integrate its gift of information and make decisions based on our truth.
So never apologize for how you feel. You may need to apologize for how you expressed it… especially if you don’t have much practice, but how you feel is how you feel. It is part of you, and acceptance of it gives you strength.