Right, so I was getting ready to write this post about something totally different. Namely, about Medium, the writing I’m working on this week, and one or two other topics. And, then?
Well, it occurred to me that I’ve not written about COVID-19 in a while, and I wanted to return, as if I’d ever really left, to the pandemic to discuss what some people are talking about, and some are not. Why? It’s hard.
Breakdowns, breakthroughs, and our emotional self. Hm. Alright, stay with me.
Because destigmatizing breakdowns is important. They happen to us all. Really. Even if we don’t have access to the language to know that we are in an emotional breakdown, for instance, they happen. And?
Acknowledging and accepting our breakdowns is important to fully understand what’s happening within ourselves; and, to get to that insight delivered via breakthrough that will come on the other side of our breakdown.
Example? Sure. It’s very present for me.
In conversation with the team yesterday, well, some of the team, I received feedback that I didn’t see coming. Not at all. And?
Well, the feedback was excellent, and was timely and needed, yet the due date for the work that is affected by this new information is this week.
Right, so I went into breakdown, and stayed there for a couple of hours. What did this look like? Well, it looked like I was doing the rest of my day, driving to physical therapy, then to the store, then finally home.
When I got home?
Well, I showered, and then sat for my evening meditation. And? On the other side of my meditation, many insights occurred, which I captured for the following morning, this morning, in fact. And?
Well, getting back into the conversation this morning with new insight, a new perspective, and an additional colleague created a new way forward.
Yep. Did I see that possibility while I was in breakdown last night? Nope, not at all.
Yet, the more breakdowns and breakthroughs I go through, the more inner-knowing I have that an insight, or a combination of insights and perspectives, will deliver a solution to the issue.
Meaning that, yes, the changes that will need to be made will take time and coordination, yet there is workability. There is a way forward. And, there always is.
And, when we are in breakdown, we can’t always see these possibilities. And, that’s okay. Yes, scary at times, yet perfectly normal.
That, for me anyway, is the essence of a breakdown. Being unable to see far enough, due to my entanglement, in those moments, within my own self.
Being in touch with our emotional self has never been more important than it is today.
The pandemic has ushered in many more unknowns. Really. Many more unknowns for all of us. Personally, familially, organizationally, nationally, culturally, at every level. Every level.
Tonight I am very present to the beauty in accepting and being with my breakdowns as they occur. Staying with them, going inside of myself to see what’s there, and to the knowing that insights will come. They always do.
When you are feeling overwhelmed and a breakdown is imminent, remember, you are not alone. They happen to us all, and in the long run they are beneficial.
They simply mean you are growing as a human being. Growing into yourself, through yourself. Beautiful.
Have you ever heard of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)? Hm. Either way, know that although I’ve been a highly sensitive person my whole life, I had never heard this phrase until about 2 years ago. Here’s what happened.
About 2 years ago I was at a team building event, and we had one of our instructors come and talk about the highly sensitive person.
It only took about 10 minutes for me to get it. Yep. Then?
As I reflected upon the information I received at the teambuilding, and the new information from the book, so many things occured to me about my childhood, youthood, and adulthood.
I could clearly see my high sensitivity, what was then labeled as shyness or actually derogatorily called being sensitive.
I internalized my shyness and sensitivity as a problem for many, many years.
What I could have never known as a child, youth, or even as an adult previous to a couple of years ago, is that being a highly sensitive person is also a paradox, and a gift. Yep. How, you ask?
Sure. One, question first.
What do you think of when you imagine someone that is highly sensitive; or what association do you make? It’s okay. It’s not a judgement.
Did you see someone in a position of weakness, or in need of help? It’s okay if you did, today it’s normal.
What I am showing you is that in language being sensitive is associated with weakness; and, that that same language is what is used to experientially socialize children to think of high sensitivity as a weakness.
Now, though I am pleasantly surprised that the definition leads with receptivity and capability, it soon enough gets to easily hurt or damaged. Unfortunate, and just plainly not ture.
What is true is that being a person with high sensitivity, like most things in life, is a paradox. How, you ask? Right, well, let’s take a look shall we.
First, let’s explore high sensitivity. Now, know that my experience with the topic of high sensitivity is in being a person with high sensitivity. Meaning, that I’ve not read much about the topic.
Alright, ready? let’s go.
What is High Sensitivity?
Having high senstiivty pretty much means as it sounds. That, in some aspects, people with high sensitivity are more sensitive to external and internal stimulation.
Here are a couple of examples.
People might be highly sensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, smell, and emotions, both their own, and other peoples. There are many ways these sensitivities manifest, which you can check out on the Highly Sensitive Person website.
More often than not, people that have high sensitivity do not know it. Some don’t ever end up knowing it, and some, like myself, do. Approximately 15 to 20% of the population has high sensitivity.
The issue with not knowing, is that people with high sensitivity may end up internalizing their sensitivity as a problem, which is unhealthy and can be destructive.
Many people with high sensitivity end up using unhealthy coping mechanisms, like substance abuse, to bury their sensitivity and inability to understand and cope in more healthy ways.
And, the paradox? Yep, here we go.
High Sensitivity as A Paradox
I label high sensitivity as a paradox to push the limits of language and experience, of what is known. Important. Example? Of course.
I know several people with high sensitivity; and, all of them are clear and strong.
Yep, they are sensitive, and sensitive in different ways, yet that sensitivity makes them clearer and stronger.
In language, as we discussed, sensitivity is associated with a weakness, or deficit, which is simply not the case.
When people that are highly sensitive know about their sensitivity, they can learn to cope with their higher sensitivity, and, in many cases, higher emotional input and output in more healthy ways.
Further, because emotions are felt more, both internal and external, it provides the highly sensitive person with a gift.
The gift of feeling more, knowing more, and loving more.
Another gift is being able to sense where people are at emotionally. Super helpful always, and even more so in leadership roles.
It gives you the opportunity to meet people exactly where they are, free of any judgement. You understand your emotions more, and so you understand other people’s emotions more too. It works like that.
Being a person with high sensitivity has been a journey from thinking for many, many years that I was broken to the realization that I am clear about my emotions and stronger for my sensitivities. Much Stronger.
If you think you might be a person living with high sensitivity, I recommend you take the sensitivity quiz on the Highly Sensitive Person website.
Regardless of whether you are a person living with high sensitivity or not, it is important to remember that our senses and emotions are part of being human. We all have them.
Yes, some people are more sensitive than others to their senses and emotions. However, we all need to take the time to understand our sensations and emotions; time to be with them, and greet them with compassion and grace.
Along the way, please also don’t forget to continue to extend yourself that same compassion and grace. You deserve it.
We’ve all heard the term lonely, or loneliness, yes? Of course, right. Well, how often do you find yourself feeling lonely? Often, maybe? Especially right now, feeling lonely is probably more present for more of humanity than at any other time in recent history. Hm.
Alright, so let’s take a look at loneliness, shall we.
I want to better understand why it is that people associate loneliness with something negative, or rather with a negative emotional state. Sound familiar?
Yep, humans have a habit of turning certain emotions, like loneliness, into something that is negative, which is not at all helpful. Really. Example? Sure.
How often have you had someone ask you in a concerning way, if everything is okay, when you are emoting happiness? Sure, not often.
Now, how often have you had someone ask you in a concerning way, if everything is okay when you are emoting sadness? Yep. Exactly.
Why do we do this? Many reasons, some of which we will explore in a moment. Before we do, however, let’s define loneliness. Will be helpful for our inquiry. Here we go.
noun /ˈləʊnlinəs/ /ˈləʊnlinəs/[uncountable]
a feeling of being unhappy because you have no friends or people to talk to
the fact of a period of time being sad and spent alone
Right, there we go. What do you notice? Hm. I notice a few things. Okay, let’s pull these definitions apart a little and see what we get, shall we. Alright, let’s go.
Emotions and Feelings
Human beings have a very hard time with certain emotions. Yep, you know. Sadness, grief, depressed, anxious, and desperate, to name but a few; and, yep, loneliness is also a part of this list.
Now, why do you imagine this is the case? Is it that there are certain emotions that we are “supposed” to feel, while there are others that we are not supposed to feel? Hm.
Well, let’s keep in mind that you cannot have happiness without sadness, yet we concentrate so hard on happiness, that often, I think, it eludes people. Why?
Because we are so desperate for it to occur; and conversely, desperate for sadness to not occur.
Yet, as was aforementioned, there is another way to think about and to know our emotions. For instance, to know that sadness must occur for happiness to occur. Literally. That is not a figure of speech, as they say. It is truth.
Without knowing the depths of sadness, you cannot know the heights of happiness. They go together. Always have, and always will.
If someone tells you that they don’t experience sadness, or that they are happy all the time. They are mistaken. It’s just not humanly possible. We can know more avoid sadness than we can loneliness.
Loneliness, like sadness, or any other negatively ascribed in language emotion, is not a problem. It’s not. Loneliness will occur, and when it does it doesn’t mean that you are a problem, or having an issue because you are experiencing loneliness. It doesn’t. Another possibility? Yep.
It is possible to subscribe to a different way to think about any emotion deemed negative or an issue in language. It is.
We can subscribe to a world where emotions that we are socialized to avoid or resist are accepted.
Acceptance of all emotions is freedom. Freedom from dogma about certain emotions being “good” and certain emotions being “bad.” Emotions are not good or bad, they just are. Yet, at times, some might feel better than others.
However, know that emotions you typically associate with negative feelings can actually feel very therapeutic. Now, know that I did not live the majority of my life experiencing my emotions this way.
Most of my life I experienced emotions like many people.
Avoiding and resisting the emotions that we typically associate with being a problem, or an issue, like sadness and grief.
It’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve been able to truly experience these emotions and the feelings that follow.
And, I can tell you that is possible to emote and feel sadness and grief, and to do so in a way that also feels like a release and an unburdening of your entire self. That may sound a little dramatic, yet it is true.
When we decouple emotions like loneliness, sadness, or grief, from the typical ways people think about (and define) them, and socialize future generations to think about them, we are living in a new realm with new possibilities.
A realm where
experiencing all of your emotions is okay, is accepted, even embraced.
you are actually strength personified when you allow yourself to feel and experience all of your emotions and associated feelings in the way they happen.
future generations are socialized to understand their emotions in new ways, honoring the entire emotional spectrum as healthy and positive.
Happiness and Sadness
As I’ve written, happiness and sadness go together. The occurence of one is dependent on the occurrence of the other. Okay. What does that really mean?
It means that we don’t have to subscribe to the notion that because we are experiencing loneliness that we are unhappy. Really. Even though sadness and unhappiness are part of the definition of loneliness, it does not mean that we have to experience our loneliness this way.
Better language might be that, though we may experience unhappiness or sadness about being lonely, it does not follow that we will always feel the same way. Further, when we are unhappy or sad about being lonely, it’s okay. Being unhappy and sad are part of being human.
Really feeling and experiencing loneliness and every emotion that comes with being lonely makes being with people that more wondrous. It does.
Right now all across the world people are alone more than, in some cases, like mine, they ever have been before. And, yes, there is loneliness, and sadness, and, yep, unhappiness; and, there is also companionship, happiness, and joy.
It is really important to feel our emotions, and to accept them. All of them. It is being alive. When we desire certain emotions over others, we set ourselves up for disappointment. And, an expectation that certain emotions will show up more than others is not realistic.
It’s not how the world works, and it is not how being a human works.
When we release ourselves from the expectation, for instance, that we must be surrounded by people and be happy all the time, we have freedom.
Freedom from an expectation that is inconsistent with being a human being. And, inside of this freedom, we have the opportunity to create a new way to feel our emotions, on our terms and in our own unique way.
Companionship and Loneliness
Just like happiness and sadness, there is companionship (or friendship) and loneliness. And, just like happiness and sadness, companionship and loneliness function similarly, yet are just as important to consider. Ready? Alright, here we go.
Can you think of a time when you had lots of companions, and still felt lonely? Ah, very good. Me too. Therefore we can actually make the argument that having companions does not mean that you will not at times also feel lonely.
You will, I will, we all will. Again, being lonely sometimes is part of being human.
And, just like being with people and also feeling lonely, it is also possible that you will at times feel lonely, and not experience unhappiness and sadness. It’s true.
Even though the definition of loneliness spells out quite clearly that unhappiness and sadness are a byproduct of being lonely, it is not always the case.
Emotions and associated feelings are quite complex and simple at the same time. They occur. And, they don’t always occur the same way. They’re not supposed to.
In my estimation there are a couple of things we can all do to avoid traps associated with expecting to feel certain emotions one way versus another. Here are a few of those.
Expect emotions to occur and know that they will always occur differently. If you always experience them the same way, it could be that you expect them to occur that way.
Relieve yourself of the notion that emotions are supposed to occur how they always have, or how someone else has told you they should.
Decouple negative feelings from negative emotions. They don’t always occur this way.
Know that it is okay to be lonely sometimes. Actually, it is necessary. Really experiencing loneliness, and all the other emotions and associated feelings that come with being lonely, will ensure your experience of companionship will be that more wonderful.
Embrace all of your emotions. Resisting and avoiding emotions, like loneliness, or sadness, will only ever get you more of that emotion. It works that way.
Alright, we’ve inquired into loneliness, and along the way also, sadness, happiness, greif, and companionship. Remember emotions and the associated feelings that come with them, just are. They are not good or bad, or right or wrong.
You will experience emotions at times as you expect. Yet, if you are open to the possibility that emotions will occur differently, and that they will also feel differently, you may be surprised at what you get back.
Have you ever considered hope and despair at the same time? Hm. I’m not sure that I have. I would like to. Thoughts? Well, let’s do a cursory look, and see what we get.
In 4 Reasons Why Language Is Power, I wrote about the power of language. We don’t typically consider the power that lives inside the language we use. It is very important. It shapes experiences, expectations, and trajectories that we set our lives on.
Well, look at that. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Hm. Interesting. And, despair is defined as the lack of hope, or lack of such a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Mm, this will be fun.
Expectations and desires for a certain [result] thing to happen
If hope is, at least as it is defined here, associated with an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, when we hope we are essentially concentrating on a result.
And, if that result doesn’t occur? Then we may fall into despair, which is the lack of the expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The issue?
We cannot have hope without despair. They go together. If you can feel hope, then it is equally possible to feel despair. Not a problem. Important, however, to understand. Why?
Often, people get upset or frustrated when in despair. Yet, as we can see from the language itself, it is only natural. If you subscribe to the feeling of hope, then you will sometimes feel despair. And, vice versa.
Another way to look at hope and despair
Another way to think about hope and despair is as two sides of the same coin. The world is full of these opposites. Sad and happy, life and death, and so on. For the world to occur as it does, they are needed.
Yet, we can create more power over these concepts by understanding that they always occur together. Meaning that if you are sometimes hopeful, you will sometimes feel despair. It is a must.
When we understand this as true, we can shift our thinking, and mindset to incorporate this apparent paradox with a new understanding.
The new understanding is that these concepts are one. Think about the coin analogy I’ve used in this post. A coin is one thing, yes? Yet, it has two distinct sides; head and tales. Hope and despair are the same. As are all pairs of opposites.
When do we run into trouble with these concepts?
When we expect hope, for instance, to show up more than despair. Why? Because then when despair shows up, we get down, frustrated, maybe even angry. Not helpful.
By accepting that despair is a part of hope, as sadness is a part of happiness, we increase our awareness about the fact that despair will come; and, guess what?
When it does, it’s okay. It’s normal to feel despair sometimes. Just as it’s normal to feel sad sometimes. If you never feel sad, or despair, then happiness and hope will elude you. True.
It is also important to welcome despair as much as you welcome hope. Why? Because when we resist feeling despair, we avoid it. And, when we avoid things, we actually attract more of those concepts into our life.
I avoided sadness for such a long time, that I was often sad. Really. Did I look sad all the time? No. It was internal. Yet, believe me, it was there. As was despair.
Yet, when you openly accept that all feelings happen, you create a space to be with them when they come. No judgment. Being in despair or sad doesn’t mean anything.
You are not having “issues” because you sometimes feel despair. Funny how we create language around “negative” emotions and associate them with problems. Not helpful. In fact, detrimental, and untrue.
What can you do?
When you are hopeful, notice. And, be hopeful. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of hope. Or, happiness, joy, or elation.
And, when you are in despair, notice. And, be in despair. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of having despair. Or, sadness, melancholy, or misery.
Our emotions come and go. It is important to expect them all to show up. All of them. And, to welcome them all. When we welcome them all, they stop having power over us.
In that moment of acceptance, we create a space to be with our emotions in a completely new way. Free of judgement and created meaning that one emotion is better, or should be more expected than another.
Remember that our emotions just are, and that hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. Just like the heads and tales of a coin, hope and despair are one.
For most of my life I associated breakdowns with something to be avoided. An issue? Not necessarily. However, consider that breakdowns always lead to breakthroughs. And, without breakthroughs there is no movement. Movement, you ask?
I mean you cannot move your life into new realms of understanding and experience when you avoid breakdowns. Not possible. However, when you are open to an understanding that includes breakdowns and the associated breakthroughs as part of the human experience, you can move your life into new realms. Really.
Before we go further, let’s take a look at the definition of breakdown.
A mechanical failure.‘breakdowns could totally disrupt production’
A failure of a relationship or system.‘a breakdown in military discipline’
2. A sudden collapse in someone’s mental health.‘Heather had a breakdown following the death of her sister’
The chemical or physical decomposition of something.‘the breakdown of ammonia to nitrites’
3. An explanatory analysis, especially of statistics.‘a detailed cost breakdown’
A lively, energetic American country dance.
Alright, let’s use 1.2 for the purposes of this conversation.
You may then ask, well, how do I become open to breakdowns as part of my regular daily experience? Ah, good. Let’s take a look at three things you can do every day that will ensure that you fully experience your breakdowns and the associated breakthroughs.
1. Welcome the Breakdowns
Often human beings avoid doing something new because we believe we need to look good and be right. Seriously. Take a moment right now, and really sit inside of this concept for a minute. And? Yep.
If you are really open to this conversation, you will agree that you too often avoid new experiences, because to be vulnerable and admit we don’t know is hard. Really hard.
Let me write that again. Being vulnerable and admitting we don’t know about something is hard. Really hard.
It is okay to acknowledge that; to admit this truth. It is. Admitting this truth simply means you are now aware that new experiences frighten people. With this new awareness you can now work from a space that allows for more openness. A paradox. Yep.
Actually becoming aware of this truth immediately opens you up. Right away. How? Because when we are no longer avoiding something about ourselves that we don’t like, and we embrace reality as it is, we create a new space within ourselves to know ourselves better, and to learn.
What to do?
The next time you are invited to take on something new that you don’t know much about, or have tried in the past and failed, try it again. Why?
Because inside of your new awareness about breakdowns, you have a new understanding; that breakdowns are normal. We need them to move ourselves forward. We need them to get to breakthroughs. Welcome the breakdowns. It simply means you are on the right track.
2.Ask for Help
Another thing hard for many humans to do is ask for help. Why? Because like trying new things, admitting that we need help, makes us fearful. When we act with a need to look good and be right, there is no space to ask for help. We see it as a weakness. Again a paradox. Why?
Because as I’ve written about in other posts, the idea that we know everything there is to know about any topic is silly. No matter how many degrees you have, or how much practical experience you have, there is always something to learn. Always.
Within this context, asking for help is normal. And, it is. Very normal. Does that mean asking for help is easy? No. Admitting we don’t know, need help, no matter what it is we are doing is hard. Very hard.
However, like understanding that breakdowns are normal, having this new understanding about asking for help, immediately opens you up. Opens you up to understanding the true nature of your humanity. And, in this space, you have the opportunity to learn more, be more, and know more. Awesome.
What to do?
When you are in breakdown, stay there. Yep, that’s right. Stay inside of that breakdown, and really feel it. Then, if you get a breakthrough, great. If not, ask for help. There is everything right about asking for help. Think about it like this. If you don’t ever ask for help, you are not expanding that which you know.
And, when we stop expanding what we know, we are limiting ourselves, and our human potential. Your potential is vast. It already is. If you experience that vastness, wonderful. If you’ve yet to experience it, don’t worry. Follow the steps in this post, and you will begin to experience it. Really.
3. Capture the Breakthroughs
You will never know when a breakthrough will come. Sometimes you will get a breakthrough right on the other side of a breakdown. Sometimes it will be later. It’s okay. Normal.
What’s important is to capture your breakthroughs. In the moment you have a breakthrough, you may not even be sure what it is related to; and, that’s okay. Write it down anyway. Hold onto it. You will see where it belongs eventually.
Once you know where your breakthrough insight belongs, you can make plans to implement it into that area of your life. Sometimes you will choose to do this right away; and, sometimes you will wait. Both are fine. It matters less when you implement your breakthrough, than it is that you stay open to adopting it in some way. Why?
Because that breakthrough is a direct result of a breakdown you had. Whether you can trace the breakthrough back to a breakdown, it is related. Important. And, why it is so important to track and capture your breakthrough in some way.
Let’s now take a look at the definition of breakthrough.
A sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.‘a major breakthrough in DNA research’
1. An instance of achieving success in a particular sphere or activity.as modifier‘the band’s breakthrough album’
Alright, we’ve now discussed a journey from breakdown to breakthrough. Though there is much more to discuss about breakdowns and breakthroughs, we covered enough to keep you moving.
When I started seeing my lifecoach 3 years ago, she once asked me this question:
Can you limp along a little while longer?
At that time in my life, a concept like a journey from breakdown to breakthrough was not available to me. Well, it was, however, I was not paying attention, nor was I in touch with myself. When we are out of touch with our own humanity the conversation we just had is harder to put into action.
However, what I’ve come to realize in the past three years, is that with guidance and persistence, the journey from breakdown to breakthrough can become a reality for everyone.
A reality that includes welcoming our breakdowns, a willingness to ask for help, and a system we can use to capture our breakthroughs so we can learn, and move ourselves forward.
This past week, as you can tell from three of my most recent posts, I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience, breakdowns and breakthroughs, and getting unstuck. I’m unsure if I actually connected the three concepts in the posts, so I am going to do so here real quick, promise. 🙂
In the post, A Journey from Breakdown to Breakthrough, I write about how breakdowns are normal. Though there is a stigma attached to breakdowns, especially in the U.S., they are perfectly normal. More, they are needed. When we welcome our breakdowns, we get to breakthroughs, which then opens us up to more insight.
How are they connected?
Being more aware of how we feel, when we feel frustrated, anxious, angry, or nervous means that we are not addressing something. As possible, we are not welcoming a breakdown. Maybe we are resisting it, because we think it’s a problem to have a breakdown. If that’s so, it’s okay. I lived that way for a long time.
However, what I’ve come to realize is that welcoming breakdowns when they are there, will move us to breakthrough, and guess what? When we move from breakdown to breakthrough, we are now unstuck. Consider that when we avoid breakdowns, we remain stuck.
And, when we move from stuck to unstuck by addressing something we’ve been avoiding, or are in denial about, we increase our resilience. Yep. It’s so. Resiliency increases as we face difficult situations. Sometimes those situations are external, sometimes internal. Consider also, at some level they are always internal.
Lastly, continuing to live through COVID-19 reminds me that being aware of the following is needed now more than ever.
The importance of
Being sensitive to how we feel.
Welcoming our breakdowns.
Using our breakthroughs; and,
Moving from stuck to unstuck again and again, which
Expands our containers, and increases our overall level of resilience.
We are all going to have to face, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, many, many, more unknowns in the months to come. And, living inside of the unknown is a very uncomfortable place for most people. However, there are actions we can all take to increase our resiliency, which will make the unknown less scary.
There are actions here, and in each of the aforementioned posts, which walk you through strategies you can utilize, if you choose, to increase your awareness and resilience, which you may find beneficial in the long run.
Phew, what a week. All across the country we are still seeing rises in the COVID-19 virus. As I’ve mentioned, most of my extended family lives in Los Angeles, and the virus incident rate is particularly high there right now.
It’s a lot for everyone to bear right now.A lot. Know that even when you feel like you are the only one feeling anxious, sad, confused, angry, frustrated, or any other emotion that arises; you are not alone.
Repeated. You are not alone.
We all feel. We all feel the same emotions. They come and go, here one moment, then gone the next. Normal human experience.
This week I was feeling particularly blocked. No real writing ideas were forthcoming. Frustrating. And, as I’ve written about in other posts, this happens to us all. You can insert whatever medium you like here, arts, science, it doesn’t matter. We all get blocked. Stuck.
You know what it was for me this week?
Mm. Took me about two days to figure it out, which means that I continued to do my day like always, feeling overwhelmed. For me, the first indicator something is going on. Then it occurred to me. You’ve not cried at all this week.
You may be saying, jeez, it’s only Wednesday. Yet, as was aforementioned, we all have a lot to hold, handle, and deal with right now. Letting out those tears then is not only needed, it is necessary. For everyone, and especially those that live their life from a creative standpoint.
Creativity becomes blocked when we hold onto our emotions. Yep. What did I do? I cried. And, guess what? Almost immediately I had several new insights, which I am currently writing about, including this blog.
It is so interesting to write about the importance of doing our inner work, being with our emotions, probing into them, really feeling them, letting them go, and still continue to get stuck holding onto mine. A Paradox? Yes.
It is the reality of the situation. Humanness.
Happens to us all. It is part of being human. It is the pain, and WONDER about being human. It is also the continuous learning about being human.
Learning from ourselves and each other. Beautiful.
On this Wednesday, then, I send you peace and love; and, knowing that your emotions, which may be erratic and more complex than normal due to our current reality, are not abnormal. You are just like me. And, I am just like you.
When you need to cry do so, and see what comes on the other side of those tears that are ready to pour forth.
I’ve lived the majority of my life believing that crying was something I’m not supposed to do. See, when something is not modeled for you as a child, and you are actively told not to do that same thing, you don’t know how to do it. May sound funny. Not knowing how to cry, yet believe me when I tell you that many, many people do not know how to cry. What about you?
And, what does crying really have to do with our lives? I mean, are we missing something when we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to cry? Or, is the idea of crying as beneficial, just more psychobabble? Not sure. I wasn’t either for 40 years. Yet, today, I have some ideas, so let’s take a look.
If we want to live a life of openness and possibility, then crying is something we must learn how to do. And, while crying during a sad movie is beneficial, especially for someone that doesn’t know how to really access their tears, when I refer to crying in this context, I am talking about getting in touch with pain that is deep within us. And, learning how to release it through our tears.
I’m talking about the kind of crying where we ache all over, shudder with pain, grief, remorse, anger, frustration, and sadness. The kind of cry that will bring you to your hands and knees in the middle of the night. That’s different. And, a very different experience.
For 40 years, I held all of my tears inside of me. They would leak out during a sad movie, or sad event, yet I could not just sit and cry. Nope. Was not possible for most of my life. And, what happens when you don’t know how to release those tears that you know are there?
For me, it created more anger, frustration, and deep pain. I was a mess. Really, I was. The slightest thing would “make” me angry, and then my emotions would erupt out of me. Why? Because I hadn’t learned how to let these emotions out in positive ways.
We hear all the time that young boys, especially in the US, learn, and are taught, that crying is not something that “men” are supposed to do. Social conditioning of this kind is so harmful. Very damaging.
And, while I knew this type of socialization was extremely damaging, I only really understood this intellectually. Really, just a theory for me at the time, yet I didn’t even know it. Why? Because to really know something you must have lived it, practiced it. The only real way. And, I had not done that with my emotions.
In essence I was the walking epitome of hyper-masculine socialization; even more so, because I actually talked about how much of a problem this is for young boys in the US. Yet, it was also myself I was speaking about. Totally unaware.
Then about 3 years ago I was shown a new way. A way that included the positive acknowledgement of my emotions, a way to handle them, and a way to release them. As you can imagine, dealing with my emotions one way for 40 years, and then living through them in a new way has been difficult, yet extremely empowering, insightful, and beneficial. And, I am still learning.
What are some of the health benefits of learning to cry?
I understand that the question above may seem silly, or even ridiculous to some, yet to me, it makes perfect sense. When you don’t know how to do something, you must learn. And, learning to cry, to release that which is, and always has been, inside of you, is no different.
Here are a few of the health benefits I’ve experienced from learning to cry.
The dissipation of anger and frustration – as you can imagine, living for such a long time without the ability to cry, means there was a lot of crying to do, and still is. And, with that release, the anger and frustration that seemed to plague me daily, has dissipated. It has dissipated a lot.
More overall well-being – with the release of the anger and pent up frustration, has come more overall well-being. Frustration and anger don’t really feel all that great. Not when they’ve been held onto for so long. Meaning that I feel lighter today. I’m not carrying so much of that anger and frustration around. I’ve gotten in touch with a lot of it, and released it.
Higher levels of patience – I used to always label myself as someone with little patience. Not a helpful strategy to begin with. And, how can one really be patient when they are holding onto their anger and frustration? Not possible. My patience has increased tremendously with my ability to cry as needed.
A better understanding of myself – when you get in touch with your emotions, really begin to understand them, and how they work, you also get the added benefit of understanding yourself better. Simple. You work on your emotions, and they work for you, instead of against you.
And, the biggest benefit of all, increased clarity.
One of the biggest benefits of learning to cry, and crying often, is that I have more clarity. Really. It actually makes perfect sense. When you are holding onto your emotions, not because you want to, but because you don’t know what else to do with them, you are carrying around years of baggage. How can you see clearly through all of that? You can’t.
However, when you get in touch with your emotions, and actively inquire into why you feel as you do, your clarity about yourself, and the world around you increases tremendously. Super helpful.
And, when you are more clear, your focus, and intuition bloom. You can see where you are stuck, and inquire into the root issue, and become unstuck. Sometimes it takes time to get to the root issue, however, if you stick with it, it will become clear.
For instance, I’ve learned over the past couple of years that one of the personas I’ve taken on in my life is that of the hero. Wanting to save everyone from everything. Not helpful. Why?
Because, when people don’t have the ability to fail, they don’t learn. Simple. Saving someone from failure is the worst thing you can do. People that identify with the hero, will be confused about this, which I understand. I was confused too.
However, through every failure, people learn a new skill, or have a new insight. These are important. They are the gems of being a human being. And, people need to experience them. Even when they are painful.
The insight I had about performing the hero was that it all stems from a desire I’ve had since I was little, which was a desire to save my dad from his pain and anguish. A stunning insight for me. Because I was unable to see the root of my own hero attachment, I always acted out the hero. Didn’t know any better.
Yet, by working on, and understanding my emotions, I can see that clearly. Very clearly. And, that branch of understanding is connected to many others that span my whole life. A wonderful thing to see and understand.
What can you do if you’ve not been taught to understand your emotions, and you are unable to cry?
You can start today. Start by making a choice to get in touch with your humanity, of which emotions are a very large part. Here are a few things you can do to get in touch with your emotions, which may assist you in learning how to cry.
See someone – as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve been seeing someone regularly for 2.5 years now, and the insights that have come from these conversations have been life changing, and are irreplaceable. The techniques employed in these sessions are grounded in Eastern Spirituality, which I have found the most beneficial.
Find a quiet space – we all need our own space. And, to inquire into your emotions, and release them, you need space to do so. Find a way to create a space for yourself, and make it a requirement that you are not bothered during these times.
Inquire into your feelings – when emotions arise, ask questions about them, and see what happens. In my case, there are many layers of understanding associated with my emotions, so where I used to ask the questions, such as why am I angry at this moment? Today, the reason usually arises without the question. If you’ve never done anything like this before, start by questioning your feelings. You may find that what is bothering you is something simple, right on the surface, or it may be something deeper, which will require more investigation.
Write out how you feel – important. Writing down how you feel is a strategy I highly recommend. It has served me very well. I write my feelings down during my inquiry, so that I can see them. And, doing this has created even more insight for me. There is something about writing your feelings down that allows you to better connect with them, and understand them.
Let the cry happen – I can remember so many times when I desperately wanted to cry, to release that which was inside of me, yet there was always a barrier there. If you’ve lived this way, it will take some time to let those tears out. Yet, know that they will come in time. A little here, and there. And, eventually a flood. Remember, it is okay. Better language, it is wonderful.
Once you’ve worked on your emotions for a while, it does become easier. Like anything, it takes time. And, it is time well spent. Believe me.
Our emotions are needed and necessary. Yet, for many, being in touch with these emotions is out of reach. It’s a simple fact. And, it is a sad one. When you are in touch with your emotions, you learn to cry for yourself first. Then you will learn to cry for others. And, at some point you will learn to cry for all of humanity. Why?
For the pain and suffering that plagues human beings. The pain and suffering that comes from being detached from one’s emotions. And, it’s not because there is no other way to live. It is because most people don’t yet have access to an alternative way.
Yet, I have hope that there will be a day when people will have more access to their emotional selves, and the ability to release that which they’ve been holding onto for so long.
For, in understanding ourselves better, we can understand each other better. And, when we understand each other better, there is a greater likelihood of us showing more love and compassion for our fellow human beings. And, with more love and compassion will come more peace. More peace for each of us, and more peace on this planet.
I used to believe that I was my emotions. Confusion. I did not know then, like I am beginning to understand now, that emotions simply happen. They, like thoughts, are a product of the very human stimulus response system.
When something happens in our context, we have a thought about that happening, and that thought will usher in an emotion. That emotion will be a product of the thought pattern, simple.
However simple that seams, people do not always find it simple to understand how their emotions work. Why is this so? Most people are not taught how to understand their emotions. Why? Because their parents or caretakers did not know how to understand their emotions either. A cycle.
And, the cycle is created again each generation. A large part of why the cycle continues, is that people are afraid of their emotions. Then you have, people that are not taught how to understand their emotions, while also living in fear of their emotions. A very difficult combination. I know, I lived in it most of my adult life.
However, what I have come to realize is that we are not our emotions. We are not, then our fear. We have emotions, we have fear, yet we are not those emotions, or that fear.
In order to understand our emotions, as I’ve written in other posts, we have to look at your feelings, and begin to question why we feel the way we do. Not a simple task. In fact, it can be quite painful. However, on the other side of this pain is release.
A release from the suffering, which may manifest itself as resentment, grief, sadness, anger, frustration, or any other feeling, you’ve been holding onto. Looking into these emotions and their associated feelings is a discovery process, which can enlighten us to new ways to understand our own humanity.
I’ve been looking into my emotions for a couple of years now. In this time, I’ve come to realize that there is nothing to fear about our emotions, and those feelings, which often don’t feel so great. When we take the time needed to understand why we feel as we do, we can begin to heal.
Heal from whatever suffering we’ve been holding onto. And, in our healing we create the possibility that those around us can also heal. How is this so? Because as we begin to understand our feelings, we learn about ourselves. And, in our learning, we create a deeper understanding of other people’s suffering.
When we understand other people’s suffering, because we understand our own, we can stand with them. We can give ourselves compassion, and then give compassion to others as well. Realizations like this, and the associated practical work needed to create this realization, also creates a deeper understanding of the human experience, of which having emotions is a part.
I used to think that the human experience was about “being happy,” or finding my purpose. I’ve since come to realize that happiness, and purpose, like our emotions, live within us. Because they live within us, it is our responsibility to understand how they function. Both pain and happiness, and fear.
However, I’ve also come to realize that though we have fear, like anger or frustration, or any other emotion, we are not our emotions. However, when we hold onto an emotion, like fear, what happens? We get more of it, which is why people become confused, as I once did about anger, believing that they are that emotion. No so.
We are no more our emotions, than we are our thoughts. Emotions happen. They are a reaction to our environment, a response. When we understand this as true on an intellectual level, it is helpful. And, when we understand it on a visceral level, it is freedom.
Freedom from the cage we’ve constructed for ourselves. Cages made of fear, anger, frustration, etc. You are not your emotions, and you are not your thoughts. Therefore, dear reader, you are not your fear. You just are. I take great peace in this knowing, and hope that you might too.
the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is not something that we are born with, though we are all born with a set of emotions. Emotion, like thought, taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell are one of our major senses.
It’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve been working on getting in touch with, or, rather, understanding my own emotions. Many people believe they are in touch with their emotions, yet they are, in fact, simply covering them up with other things.
For instance, I used to cover up my emotions by overeating and drinking too much. Of course, at the time, I was not aware that I was engaging in those destructive habits as a way of denying, or refusing to accept, my emotions.
And, like many of you, I was not aware of nor was educated about my emotional self. For instance, I was not aware that when anger arises, today at least, it typically means that I am suppressing another emotion, which is usually sadness. Sadness, and the desperate need to cry.
I have read, and have taught, about masculinity in regard to emotions, and have commonly said, little boys are not taught how to deal with their emotions. In fact, they are taught to suppress their emotions. I thought at that time, I was in touch with my emotions, because I was able to theorize the accuracy of the information about masculinity and emotional intelligence.
However, theorizing about a subject, and actually knowing and understanding that subject on a visceral level are not the same thing. At the time I was teaching on masculinity and emotions, I was severely overweight and drinking heavily. Not in touch with my emotions at all.
Fast forward two years, and I am now just beginning to get in touch with my emotional self, which is both a painful and liberating process. Doing so has taken seeing someone once a week, and doing the internal investigation necessary to understand my emotions, and the events in my past that I am still holding onto.
Creating EI then is an intentional process of inquiry and investigation into parts of ourselves that we may want to leave well enough alone. Yet, what I am beginning to understand is that inquiring into, and investigating, our inner selves is part of being human, and our shared humanity.