Nothing more than feelings.
Trying to forget my feelings about love.
Rolling down my face.
Trying to forget my feelings of love.
For all my life, I’ll feel it. I wish I’d never met you girl. You’ll never come again.
Feelings by Morris Albert, 1975
Children are often indirectly taught to stuff their feelings We praise our kids for making wise decisions; yet we reprimand them when behaving so emotionally. Of course, none of us want to praise our children for their full blown temper tantrums regardless of where they occur; and their temper tantrums often bring out the worst in us parents as well. And for a variety of reasons — including not being able to understand how we feel about their outbursts and behaviors. Do we feel embarrassed or shocked by our kids’ behaviors? Instead of talking with the situations, and our feelings and theirs, we steer down the road of rationality — discipline, results and future approaches. This means we probably avoid asking them what they were feeling before the temper tantrum took place. I remember having a hissy fit a long time ago when my curled my hair. I can’t remember what preceded the event; but I clearly remember stamping off into the bedroom and immediately ripping all the curlers out of my hair while crying buckets of tears. Obviously something bothered me greatly; and today, I can’t remember what that situation involved. I do know that I wasn’t asked about my feelings; maybe it was even taboo back then. It seemed that feelings were just dumb.
I probably parented similarly. I used to rationalize with my two year olds until I was blue in the face; I don’t remember asking them about their feelings ever. Unfortunately, this pattern seems to be fairly common among parents. That robs us of the opportunity to get at the root of our children’s problems. This impresses upon them the need to explain the what and the why but not the how they feel part. Many people still presume that discussions about our feelings belong only on a therapist’s couch; and rational, intellectual discussions and conversations ought to rule the day! From childhood on, we are taught to forget about our feelings Morris Albert style.
Jesus expressed his feelings in the New Testament; God the Father also expressed his feelings in the Old and New Testaments. Ok, maybe, Jesus didn’t say: Hey listen up Peter. I’m feeling sad that you are going to betray me; but, Peter got the message loud and clear when the cock crowed three times. They had conversations about what would happen in a lot more depth than we actually know about. Peter saw Jesus’ face and voice inflection which is also a piece of the feelings puzzle. Our face, body, voice and words should all say the same thing. It’s really important to sort through our feelings and figure out ways to express them while also proving that we care about other people’s feelings say the therapists.
I have an assignment for you. Think about yesterday, and then write down the various emotions you experienced yesterday — good and bad. Did you verbalize any of your feelings in all the right ways? How many did you verbalize? How many did you stuff back into the old recesses? How often did you invite another person — regardless of age— into your inner thoughts and/or feelings? Did you ask anyone what they were feeling — rather than how they’re feeling. The how are you feeling question has become too commonplace; it’s kind of like saying hello and then moving past the person rather than wanting to get to know him/her for real. One day, I had one of the most meaningful conversations with a perfect stranger than I have had since or prior to it. It started out with the perfunctory hello as we were standing in a long checkout line. As we chit-chatted a bit about the weather and other safe subjects, the woman took a chance and started to talk about things deep seated feelings. It turned into a conversation that I will never forget; and it left me amazed at her personal courage and forthrightness. These are the types of conversations that I think we are meant to have with each other and often; yet, in fact they are rare because we usually stick to our talking points which seem intellectual.
In the past, I have written a lot about the different virtues. I think that knowing and understanding our feelings is also a personal virtue. While it may seem as if it doesn’t have a name; it actually it does. Its name is self understanding — the knowing of our feelings and of how to express them truthfully, lovingly and compassionately for the sake of ourselves and others. There are hundreds of different virtues; so how many emotions exist? Therapist Peg Roberts lists over two hundred emotions in Reclaiming Your Lost Soul. Some of the emotions listed surprised me; I would not have defined them as an emotion or feeling. If anyone is interested in the list, contact me and I’ll send it to you.
Peg also writes that we all experience feelings but not in the same way or with the same intensity. When it comes to emotions, learning their names can be helpful. Find the right words for the feelings that you’re experiencing and learn to communicate these feelings.” Her wisdom applies to parents and their children. She suggests that knowing our emotions and talking about them will help us all reclaim our lost souls [her words not mine]. That sounds like the plan for the month of August, September, October and the rest of 2022.