A New Project: Sharing Emotions...without thinking them away / by Michelle Cowan

I miss the boat. It takes me quite a while to connect with people, and I always feel that I miss numerous chances to take relationships to that infamous “next level.” Up to now, I have blazed a trail of mostly shallow friendships that I don’t discover are shallow until well after I assume I’ve opened up and connected “adequately.” Luckily, at this point, I am better able to gauge the true depths of my friendships and enjoy a few truly wonderful, strong connections. For the longest time, however, I remained puzzled as to why so many of my relationships stayed on the surface, leaving me unsatisfied.

Well, a revolution this week has enlightened my situation somewhat: I don’t admit my vulnerability. Of course, I am a strong woman who can care for herself, but that does not mean I am without needs and desires that I would rather not fulfill on my own. I need help so much of the time. I feel alone. I feel afraid. I feel confused. I long to be really known and to know others. Can others sense this about me? Do I ever admit to any of that?

I have been doing so well with feeling my emotions, and I’m even better at working through them, rationalizing them in a positive way. I, in a sense, “therapize” myself. I work through my feelings and learn from them. Nonetheless, something has been missing in my emotional journey.

I tend to express the emotion to myself, crying for hours or beating up pillows in anger. But rarely do I ever tell anyone about what happened. It’s hard to imagine that I would call someone and admit to sobbing for half a day. By that time, I’ve usually already “worked through” the issue and disregard the need to share my raw emotion with someone else.

In the same vein, I hesitate or don’t even think to call someone and ask for help when I’m just at the beginning of feeling something difficult. I devalue working on my emotions with someone. I devalue the mere expression of emotion in front of someone’s face, talking about the honest emotion I’m having without mitigating it with all the reasons or explanations I’ve already come up with.

I realized I was missing this crucial step of expression to others when I pinpointed a deep desire. Many times, I simply want people to let me feel feelings. I don’t want the feelings “fixed,” and I don’t want them ignored. I just want to be allowed to feel. And I long for someone to see me emoting and allow it. Despite this desire, I almost never get to the point of sharing an emotion without quickly following my share up with my nice, neat therapized package. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with negativity. Life is fun and positive! Shouldn’t I ensure that the positive spin takes center stage rather than the darkness of my original feeling?

No. The explanations and background surrounding my emotions are valuable, but not at the expense of giving the feeling itself credence. By hiding the depth of what I’m feeling, I miss out on a connection with the world I’m meant to have.

By not admitting my frailty, I separate myself. I think I want that separation, that it makes me strong. And for whatever reason, I think that once I’ve worked through a feeling, it’s a sign of weakness to return to it in its raw form to share my experience with another person.

Well, time to stop this. I am deciding t make a concerted effort to share more of the difficult feelings I have with others and to abandon my fear of being seen as weak. Someone who feels things as deeply as I do cannot be weak. But I am human. And I want others to know that. It’s difficult to feel connection with a “perfect” or “invincible” person, and I try to come off as both of those things, despite the fact that I am neither.

I treasure it when someone is willing to share with me a true emotional moment. I am impressed and honored when someone entrusts me with their true feelings, without explaining them away.

This new way of working with feelings and other people will take a while, but it will be worth the journey. I’ve already begun experimenting with this, resulting in some embarrassment, but also incredibly revelatory moments with others and a deeper sense of connection. Ultimately, this exercise is simply an extension of me not covering anything up and being authentic wherever I am. No need to perform… unless I’m playing on stage ;)