A day after an acupuncture treatment, I awoke to a heavily overcast day feeling rather sad, even depressed, perhaps brought on by a number of life events and news about the health of dear friends. Also, entering winter, with less sunlight, I was simply not blissed out and zooming with positivity. Yet the treatment had helped ground me after weeks of being in school, writing essays and reading, working feverishly on my novel, and coping with significant life changes that included moving, boxing my things, and therefore having to comb through memories. Needless to say, I had been “thoughtful” a lot: mind racing, mind calming, mind numbing, mind churning, mind-creative… and this morning I was radiating with some good flowing Qi. Less thought and more feeling.
It’s interesting to me that to be “thoughtful” is such a generous word to describe someone. The compliment comes in conversational terms, (“She was so thoughtful to send you a card”), and in more scholarly terms, (“She’s thoughtful about the words she chose in her paper”). I’m definitely a more thoughtful person. I’m admittedly an overly-thoughtful person. Sometimes I can’t switch off, and find myself spiraling upwards into the jittery atmosphere of my logic: rationalizing everything, trying to find a reason for everything- and this can be a good thing. Someone who is thoughtful can be a great mediator because they can see both sides to an argument. They can consider choices. They can make great writers because they own a grand meta-cognitive capacity.
But what about the “feelingful” people? They are often considered oversensitive, overly dramatic, and so on. There is the other side of that coin: “emotionally mature”, but that, I believe, comes with a balancing of thought and feeling, an ability to accept an emotion and know why it’s being felt. Emotionally mature people are some of the best people to talk to because they really practice a mind/body ideal.
On the other hand, however, I know many people too afraid to express emotions, and often, these are the more emotional people. Females, especially, generally have the capacity to feel more than feelings than males do. How cool is that? Yet women who tap too deeply into their emotions are “emotional” and not considered “emotionful”.
In fact, as I study to become a therapist I learn that much psychotherapy involves opening doors for people to express emotions that are repressed, depressed, suppressed, or too painful to reencounter. While our society accepts people on their journey to thoughtfulness- school is about thinking through problems and work is about learning how to behave and interact- our society is only just now beginning to understand the power of working our way to that emotional maturity.
Emotions can be painful. We’re taught that happiness is the goal, depression is Evil, and we’re conditioned to talk in extremes, (e.g., “This has been the WORST day ever” and “It was the BEST chicken salad I ever had”). Albert Ellis called this Catastrophizing, and psychoanalysts like Freud call this “splitting of the ego”, and yet, we’re also conditioned to only respond to the question “How are you?” with, “I’m fine. How are you?”
To feel fine or to feel good is like me waking up after some pleasant acupuncture. I was no extreme. Honestly, because I had been at extremes lately, to feel baseline was welcomed. For people who have had trouble expressing their emotions- even knowing what their emotions are- is still not openly accepted as a journey towards mastery of life. If we can’t express our emotions, Freud says they’ll come out anyway. They manifest in sometimes helpful ways, like making art, and sometimes awful ways like physical abuse, drug abuse, violence, and Depression.
No office job congratulates you for “Feeling your way through that issue” or “Being an emotive team player”. Accolades come from working hard, thinking through things, and staying focused. If we work too much in this environment and then home is not a safe place to allow emotions to flow, we will become emotionally sick, which sometimes comes out as being physically sick. What we can’t express psychologically, we express physically.
If you are working on learning your emotions, expressing them, and accepting them, know that humans are gifted an enormous range of emotions. To feel strictly happy or sad all the time isn’t fair to things like joy, loneliness, playfulness, creative, grumpy, and even stoic. Give yourself permission to grow your emotions like you grow you mind. Become emotionally mature, as well as thoughtfully mature.
Most of all, stop considering yourself and others “emotional”, as if it were a bad thing. If people are overwhelming with their emotions, work with them to deepen their experiences so they can become more real with their emotions. This is “emotionful” living, and together we can get there.