Thinking About: Emotions
I have been called a ‘cold fish’ more than once as I normally don’t show my emotions in public. Part of the reason is that, despite the existence of this Blog indicating otherwise, I’m actually a very private person. I really don’t think it’s appropriate to emote all over the place as I have seen some people do. I think that such behaviour is rather… unseemly. It’s not just that I’m a Brit with my in-built ‘stiff upper lip’. I know many of my fellow Brits who are very emotional. It definitely has to have something to do with my upbringing. My father in particular was very unemotional or at least very in control of his emotions. I’m confident that he felt things – maybe even deeply – he just never really showed the fact that he did. My mother by contrast can be very mercurial. Her emotional outbursts tend to be around the anger end of the spectrum and tip-toeing around her moods became second nature to me and my siblings.
A large part of my control issues though centred around my teenage years. I can say with confidence that I really didn’t like that time in my life. I was a seething cauldron of intense conflicting emotions that I really struggled to cope with. For a while there I thought that the only options were insanity, suicide or prison. I did actually actively consider suicide for a while in my early teens. I even remember telling my mother but I think she deliberately decided not to hear me as it was too much for her. I still remember the incident as being incredibly strange and rather surreal. Fortunately I found another way to deal with my emotions – control. Not suppression you understand. Even back then I knew that mere suppression of my feelings would be a bad idea like swallowing vomit - it just makes you worse. But I had to do something before I exploded. So even though I still had the emotional feelings I decided that the only way to get through my teens in one piece was to exert my reasoning faculties over my emotional drives. It was one heck of a fight I can tell you! On a daily – indeed minute by minute basis - my emotions were telling me to do one thing and my reason was intervening to stop them. It was almost like two siblings constantly fighting each other both to prove themselves and to dominate the other. One of the most important things I realised was that the emotion generated thoughts were not, in themselves, bad things as long as they stayed inside my head. Having ‘bad thoughts’ was just part of the hormonal ride I was on. The weapon I used against such thoughts was laughter. I literally laughed myself silly at some of the things my testosterone soaked brain came up with. I ridiculed my emotions on a daily basis until they started to behave themselves. Little by little my emotional turmoil subsided and any bubble of emotion that actually popped inside my head normally stayed inside my head. I was a much calmer person because of it.
Inevitably of course I went too far. In my attempt not to be controlled by my emotions I found that I had the greatest difficult in showing deep emotions when required – hence the cold fish comments. Girls, who I was inevitably passionate about, saw me as weird and to be honest a bit creepy because I simply couldn’t communicate with them on an emotional level. It took more than one painful rejection for me to loosen some of my control and publicly emote. I’m certainly much better with my emotions that I was 30 years ago and today I’m normally seen as calm or unflappable in a crisis rather than simply unemotional. Yet people, particularly women, sometimes don’t know what to make of me which doesn’t make relationships with them exactly easy but I know through experience that I can reduce the grip on my emotions without everything falling apart. I have been passionately in love which was a truly liberating experience I had never known previously nor since. I learnt that I could let my guard down almost entirely and still be loved by someone. I couldn’t always do it though – not even with her. My habit, my need, for control is too strong. Maybe even my fear of a loss of control is still too strong to let go completely though I remain in two minds as to whether or not this is a failing. I do sometimes worry that I’m too controlled, too self-assured, and too (apparently) invulnerable to be attractive to the opposite sex but I’m not sure if I can actually be any other way. Although I love being in love (so much so that in my teen years I conspired to fool myself into believing I was in love when what I was feeling was a mixture of lust and longing) I don’t generally value emotions highly. I remain passionate about some things; I have flashes of anger that burn like bolts of lightening, I still lust and long for women who attract my attention but I can’t help thinking sometimes that I would like to do without the emotional baggage that comes with being human. I can’t help but wonder if many of us would be better off if we didn’t feel so damned much so damned deeply. I do miss being in love though. Even as a transient ‘soap bubble’ of a thing it’s still sometimes worth the pain and the grief it causes. Sometimes…….