Truth Bomb Tuesday: Emotions aren’t scary. Dosages are scary.
I was talking to a friend recently, an older friend, who had just lost her husband.
And she was saying something like she just can’t face the grief. The grief is too much.
And it got me thinking, it’s not the grief that’s too much, it’s the quantity of grief.
And that’s totally valid, but I think it’s useful to separate it out.
Like, you might be ok with a single cup of coffee. But if you have ten cups of coffee you become a quivering wreck.
But you can’t then turn around and say “Coffee is too much for me.”
It’s the quantity of coffee that’s the problem. Not the quantity itself.
But I think we make this mistake when we talk about emotions, particularly the negative emotions. I hear people say things like, “The jealousy is just too much for me,” or “I can’t handle the anger.”
And that is then used as a justification for putting those feelings back in the bottle you keep buried at the bottom of your stomach.
But it’s not the feelings themselves. It’s the quantities that are overwhelming.
And I think the thing that often happens in our still-emotionally-stunted culture is that we make ourselves incredibly sensitive to emotions but not allowing them to come through regularly.
I don’t know if you remember the first coffee you ever had, but it probably gave you a good kick in the pants because you just hadn’t built up a tolerance for it.
And often times when something like grief comes – when a loved one dies for example – it’s often the first time we’re really experiencing it.
And I think what happens is that bottle in the bottom of the garden bursts, and all that long-denied emotion suddenly comes gushing out.
Someone you love dies, and suddenly you’ve got 30 years of unresolved grief coming through.
And the quantity is just too much. It’s like 100 coffees.
But rather than see the sudden rush of quantity of the problem, we think the feeling is the problem.
“I just can’t handle grief. I’m not going to feel it.”
Back in the bottle it goes.
But what we don’t realise is that the emotion is ok. And once we get through the initial rush – once the tidal wave passes through, we’ll be ok with that emotion… in time.
So this is my advice. If you’re someone like me who’s beat-them-with-a-wooden-spoon-and-ask-questions-later upbringing left them a bit ill-equipped to deal with their emotions – if you’re someone like me then this is what I would say.
Your emotions are ok.
They will feel intense and overwhelming at first, as you open up to letting them live in your life.
But a lot of this just comes from pent-up intensity, not the emotions themselves.
And if you give it time, and if you give yourself a bit of patience and tenderness – you’ll be ok with those emotions in time.
A rich emotional life is still an option for you.