We Don’t Talk About Feelings… No, No, No
I recently started going to therapy and I’m realizing how exhausting it is to talk about feelings. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and healing work, but no doubt it’s work. And I know you all can relate. Here’s just a short list of ways I see all of us exhausted when it comes to identifying with and talking about our feelings:
Let’s take the most recent Super Bowl win. Aaron Donald, the defensive tackle for the LA Rams, is tearful on the field, taking in the moment of this career-defining win. And what happens? A woman with a microphone chases him down, interrupts what he’s doing and asks him to share his feelings. “What’s the immediate feeling you’ve got right now?”. I’m no man (obviously), but I have to imagine verbalizing his feelings was the last thing he wanted to do. Granted he did a great job answering the question, but I’m sure he saw her coming and in his mind was rolling his eyes. Oh God, here she comes, why can’t they just leave me alone? I know what she’s going to ask… It’s no wonder the geniuses in Marketing with Disney saw this routine as an opportunity to make sure each year the winning champions had an easy answer. Rather than droning on about feelings they can now simply tell America what we all know they’re going to do next – they’re going to Disney World. Cue end of the interview.
Or how about this scenario? Each holiday, we have such a hard time finding the right words and expressing our feelings that we’ve established a company who makes Billions of dollars off our skill gap – Hallmark. We’d all rather get in the car and drive to the nearest Hallmark store or stand to buy cardstock where someone else has written the words that we’re trying to say. All we have to do is add our name so that the other person knows we meant the words written on the card from the unidentified author. And for further emphasis when we give our loved one the card, we watch them as they’re reading it and nod our head and smile. That’s right, whatever words you’re reading, those are the feelings I’m trying to convey right now but I can’t verbalize them.
And how about the question all of us get asked frequently, “how are you?” We hear this question so much that we all default to quick and easy answers such as good, busy or fine. Those are the socially accepted menu of choices. We don’t dare create a custom order answer. And when we respond to this question, we say it so fast that it’s as though we’re all pre-programmed to let the word roll off our lips. Even if we wanted to come up with a different answer, I’m not quite sure we could. (Because, how am I really feeling?) And if by some crazy sense of the imagination we did have the courage to say something different, could you imagine the response of the other person? They wouldn’t have the skills necessary to continue to support that conversation. Ummm, you’re not feeling well. Well… [changing subjects] how about the weather, what do you think of the weather?
Or how about at the doctor’s office? Have you noticed that they only want to know how you’re feeling with a number? Because numbers are data, and data doesn’t have emotion. You’re a 5? Great, no problem, if it ever goes below that, give us a call.
All kidding aside though, as much as we might all struggle to identify with and express our feelings at times, it truly is a part of our human design. To feel is to be alive and it’s in part how we experience life. God made us in His image, and part of that image is having emotions. And I’m thankful for a God who truly wants to know how I’m doing and wants to heal every part of my heart. The poetry books in the Bible are a great example to God’s appreciation for the expression of all of our emotions – the good ones, the uncomfortable ones and the ones that you can’t even quite find the right words for. I find comfort in reading through the Psalms where I can see David’s wide range of emotions as he pours his heart out to God. So, no matter how hard it might be, I’ll continue to do the hard work of identifying and expressing my emotions. And I hope you do too. 😊