Letting the feelings flow





Erratic, fickle, fitful, flighty.

We have so many words to describe people who don’t control their emotions, who make the mistake of showing on the outside what is  going on inside. The message is clear: to be mature is to be “cool,” to not let any part of our bodies betray us by actually signaling what is occurring emotionally.

What would it be like if we completely trusted our emotional experience, if we matched our inner world with our outer expression? I’m talking real, authentic expression, with no blame, no stories, no projection. And where we all understood the difference between having an emotion and acting on it.

Imagine–grocery store lines where people jump up and down and stomp their feet when they got in the slow line.  Thanksgiving meals where, instead of overeating and drinking too much, people breathed and moved and talked about being scared of looking stupid, or mad about not getting enough attention. Corporate meetings where the time together meant flowing through the exhilaration of feeling glad and sexual from the intimacy of working on projects together, to someone noticing his body tightening because he was afraid of not having the right answer, to everyone noticing their frustration at all their good efforts not turning into profits. Football games would show the quarterback who just threw an interception on the sidelines sobbing.

I imagine that our world doesn’t look like this yet because we don’t have the emotional literacy required to skate the line between feeling a feeling and wanting to pin it on something or someone else. Most of us don’t yet understand that, just because we feel enraged or sexually aroused, we don’t have to beat someone up or have sex with them. We’ve only been speaking the language of emotion since the 1960s’; we’re pretty new at it. But we’re getting better at it all the time. Let’s start practicing being “uncool” now, sobbing and shaking and stomping and shimmying and whooping it up. Because a future where people ride through their emotions means we won’t have to rely on  alcohol, food, smoking, and all the rest to keep us tamped down. And I know life would surely be more interesting.

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