Feeling

“Taking care is one way to show your love. Another way is letting people take good care of you when you need it.” Mr. Fred Rogers


There's a difference between feeling like we know people and the actual knowing of them. Oftentimes we mistake the former for the latter. People we have encountered who seem to share themselves with us so freely. We know all this information about them, but that necessarily mean we know them. What makes the knowing real is getting the emotions, the feelings, the experience of living through all those moments. It may cost us something to share our stories but it definitely requires a labor to give the truth of what an experience meant to us. We have to be able to distinguish between knowing and knowing with depth. Maybe we feel connected to people quickly because we are living in a time of strong disconnection. Maybe people have been deprived of substantive connection. Maybe we're not used to people being genuine in their vulnerability with us. 

Radical candor is a distinct way to live. It's striving to tell the explicit truth as much as possible. It's adding gravity and reality to  the ways we communicate about our existences. Instead of vagueness, generalities, and self-restriction it's ownership of our stories in as much fullness as reasonably possible. It's a pointed intentionality. In comparison to the ways that we're generally socialized to repress, obscure, and avoid emotion-driven communication, it seems like a bravely radical way of being. It just might be, or it could be a new normal of welcoming courageous truth into our connections.

Our society is bad, terrible, and downright awful with emotions. People often don't know what to do with their own let alone how to respond appropriately to the emotions of others. Whether it be the heavy emotions of worthlessness, enraged, humiliated, etc. or the lighter ones - energetic, liberated, curious. There has been so much repression, avoidance, and distancing with emotion that when they present themselves people shut down and don't know what to do. What do we do? We be people. We be human with other people. We embrace emotion instead of pushing it away. We take it in. We make it feel at home, and then when it's time for the emotions to leave we express gratitude and send them on their way. Emotions deserve to be welcomed guests in the homes that we keep within ourselves. How do we do it? We mirror, match, and go deeper. We have to learn how to embody emotions. We have to know how and where we feel things. We have to get used letting our bodies feel it all out. 

When we are joyful or get to share in the joy that others have gifted us is that in our hearts, our stomachs, our hands? It takes practice to be happy not just for other people - distanced, an arm's length away - but rather with people. That's close, that's sincere, and that's a shared experience. When heaviness or hardship is being expressed do we make space for it? Are we feeling it in the back of our throats, the weight on our chests, or the shaking in our legs? Are we more concerned with never being uncomfortable than choosing connection with someone bravely sharing their reality? We don't spend enough time with discomfort and yet it's where we learn, grow, and create better understanding. It's not meaningless quips and platitudes - that's rough, sorry that happened, oh wow, etc. It's the connective spirit of body language - kind eyes, leaning in, gentle nods of affirmation. It's follow-up questions that show attention to detail and a genuine desire to better know. It's affirmative replies that validate the experience of others. It's meta moments of being a person. What can I do? How can I show up best for you? Is it okay if? It's holding space, and being ready when it's needed. It's doing and being. 

Emotions can be tricky but can be mastered with enough practice. Are we living lives dictated by the whims and woes of our emotions? Do we have control over them or are they controlling us? There are times and emotions that we have of what we feel. Sometimes things are so overwhelming, so deeply heartfelt, so entrenched in our bodies that they just have to run their course. Are we easily tossed aside, drowned, washed ashore by waves of emotion? Or do we have some stature to us? Can we withstand? Can we endure? Can we ride the wave, conquer it, use it to our benefit? We don't sit with our emotions enough. We don't make time for them. We don't understand them. We don't know who we are with them because we ignore them.

 Then they leak out. Outbursts, breakdowns, rage fits, violence, torrential downpour of tears, panics, etc. We don't have to stumble our way into catharsis. We can be purposeful in managing our emotions. We can do the genuine work of sharing our stories, clarifying our self-understanding, taking what we need, and letting the rest go. We can know who we are, and why we are. We can feel the fullness of life and all its offerings because we know the value of emotions. Specificity matters. It's beyond saying we're sad, happy, angry. We're devastated, overjoyed, furious. And why! What's the root? What's at the bottom of the well. What experiences have shaped how we feel? Who have we learned from - for better or worse - to emulate or to be distinct from? Did we have good role models in our lives? What is our self-relationship with our own emotions? How did it come to be this way?

We don't sit with our emotions enough. We too often do away with them or turn to others to help make sense of them. Self-care is doing the self-work to be emotionally literate in the language of us. We have to give ourselves the chance to try. We have to put in the effort to cultivate a sense of self-understanding. We are not unsolvable enigmas, we just haven't put the painstaking time, energy, and effort into ourselves to figure us out. Before we scurry to share with others what happens if we take the time to pause, reflect, and try to work through. It's like self-sudoku. Getting a hint without trying to solve the puzzle is just plain cheating. What are we afraid of? Ourselves? If so, why? Why can't we do this? What is stopping us from creating our own peace? 

Why do we shun silence, introspection, and sitting with our own thoughts? Why haven't we learned to quiet our minds and feel all that we can in our hearts? Being brave with our emotions means being courageous with ourselves. When we've stopped to name our emotions, connect them to our story, and been thoughtful about them but still need more, then we can and should seek the help of others. Other people can help us make discoveries about ourselves but we still are obligated to do the actual work of feeling. Nobody else can do it for us. Only we can. And when we go to others we need to be clear on what we're after - aid and clarity or a quick fix to bypass our emotions. Emotional regularity is doing the work routinely. We can provide that for ourselves. 

Some people are like buckets, most emotions are on the surface but to get to the bottom of their feel-capacity is not too deep. Others are like wells, we've been through so many powerful emotions. When you live life as a well of emotions feelings don't register the same. It takes Earth-shattering emotions to penetrate the surface. Our tolerance is higher. We have to be conscious of how others are experiencing the world, their world. Emotions can be complicated but all of it gets easier when we are committed to doing the work of what marks the human experience - feelings. X


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