Monday, February 26, 2018

How to feel about emotions

Recently a friend saw something I had posted on Facebook and remarked, "You are the rare man who is in touch with his feelings." My kneejerk response was to gasp: "'Rare'?"

It's not that we men are unemotional - more that we tend to refrain from expressing emotions such as compassion or affection when dealing with other men. Those softer emotions will supposedly weaken us in the eyes of our peers, render us less-than-manly.

I am not always up front with my emotions; after all, I've been hurt in the past. I wear sardonicism like a suit of armor to defend myself. And yet, I'm considered sensitive; heck, here I am, writing a public blog post about emotions.

Part of what makes me quote unquote sensitive is my naiveté; I tend to default to my gut reactions in the spur of the moment and when I react that way, it tends to be very emotional. Given time to reflect on a statement I will begin to question its meaning, but in the moment I receive words at face value. It's only when I've prepared myself for a particular situation that I'm able to steel myself with a defensive quip or a sarcastic put-down (usually I put myself down; again, it's for defense).

Still, my default setting is to be genuine. I was raised by parents who each had public personas which I witnessed in church and private personas which I saw at home - and there wasn't much difference between the two. Part of my naiveté stems from that upbringing - that I was raised by emotionally honest people - maybe especially my emotionally honest father - and I often forget other people have had quite different upbringings than mine and will not necessarily respond to a kind word in the manner I would myself.

To this day I occasionally sit down with my relatives to talk about our feelings; I'd like to think we're pretty self-aware of how we respond to people and that we try to be sensitive.

As I say, when I among people I don't have a meaningful relationship with I will project a different attitude to defend myself from them. Sometimes I'm insensitive, even perceived as malicious because my humour alienates others. Regardless, there are certain situations where I do wear my heart on my sleeve. For a long time I was a withdrawn person who couldn't engage with people at all because I feared them. Now that I'm better-adjusted, what I respond to most strongly in others are the withdrawn people - the ones who I sense are distant, but yearn to be accepted. It's when I'm dealing with people such as they that I become genuine. I see in them the same hurts I struggled with and I want to help them. I have been dealt with generously, and now I want to be generous with others.

To sum up: yes, I have emotions. Try it out some time, being emotional beats the alternative.

No comments: