It was a few years ago when I was at work that my friend was listening to his wife talk and cry on the phone. When the conversation was over he said, “My wife is crying and I didn’t know what to say. I feel so uncomfortable when she cries because I don’t know how to fix the problem and make her stop crying.”
Then just the other day I heard two men talking about the same subject.
“I can’t stand it when she cries. I don’t know what to say,” the first man said.
Nodding his head, the second man immediately agreed, “I know what you mean. It’s rough.”
Men being uncomfortable when a woman cries is a common thing. In general, men don’t want to “talk” about their feelings. Men express their feelings, but usually it is in the things they do like take out the trash, open the car door, lean down and kiss you when he walks past, fills the car with gas, scrapes the snow off the car, fixes the leaking toilet, and the list is endless.
What Are Feelings?
Feelings are the way your body reacts to a situation. Those responses are based on your past experiences, the thoughts you are having now and the physical data being sent to your brain. Simply put, feelings are an emotional state or reaction.
Feelings are your friends although sometimes they feel like the enemy. For instance, the “fight or flight” feelings that I constantly experienced when I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can actually save your life in dangerous situations. The overwhelming feeling of fear because of possible danger can actually help you better understand yourself and prepare you for future dangerous or traumatic moments.
Feelings can be very helpful as long as you don’t let them ruin your life by running your life.
Say It Or Suck It Up?
When something painful happens, the majority of people hide their emotions and say they are “okay” even though they are hurting. Think about a time in your life that you suffered great pain and had to go to work or to the grocery store. Chances are when people asked, “How are you?” the response from you was, “Fine” even though you were far from being fine. You sucked it up.
Going to a job everyday means that you suck it up for at least eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year. You’re stuffing down your emotions, putting on a smile, while telling everyone that you’re “Great!” or “Fine.” There is a time and place to share your emotions, but there HAS to be a time and place when you DO share your emotions.
Stuffing emotions comes with a high cost if you never release them. Building walls around your emotional heart keeps you quite alone in this world. Alone.
Crying does not make you a drama mama. Feeling sad and crying is a natural human emotion. Opening up the tender part of you and saying how you feel about all the different aspects of your life, will not only help you have strong relationships, but it is also very therapeutic to release and share those emotions.
I used to be ashamed of my emotions, but that pretty much ended as I crawled through my PTSD healing journey. I have intense and deep feelings. When I hurt, I REALLY hurt. When I’m sad, I am DEEPLY saddened. If depression hits, I’m at the DEPTHS OF SORROW and find it hard to cast the feelings aside. Being laid off caused me to feel EXTREMELY rejected and I have yet to shake off all those pain filled emotions.
Being ashamed because I’m open enough to feel deeply is just not part of my life anymore. I am who I am and closed up, unemotional people who find my openness and heartfelt expressions uncomfortable can always find someone else to be with or chat with instead of me. I’m real like the Velveteen Rabbit. I laugh. I cry. I feel. Thankfully, I CAN feel and I’m able to express exactly how I feel most of the time.
Often we have several feelings at the same time and we tend to classify them as negative or positive emotions. There are so many emotions that humans can feel and do feel on a daily basis such as:
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Humans are complicated creatures and have a very full range of emotions.
Feelings can be felt any time, but not all feelings should be acted upon.
Learn From Your Experience And Feelings
You may not want to acknowledge your “feelings,” but throughout the day, you have experiences and feelings about the experiences. So the golden ticket question is, “How can you learn from your feelings?”
- Acknowledge your feelings – As with anything else, you must first acknowledge and admit that you have the thing. In this case, the “thing” is your feelings. I’ve already stated that there is no shame in having feelings, so acknowledging really isn’t that hard if you’ll drop your pride a bit.
- Identify your feelings – Once you acknowledge that you are experiencing a feeling, identify it. This may take some heavy duty soul searching and humility, but put a name on the feeling.
- Understand your feelings – Now that you’ve identified and named the feeling, the next step is to understand your feeling. This is a toughie. Feelings are very complex and if you are having more than one feeling at the same time, understanding the dynamics of the effect they have on your current actions may be quite difficult. This is when you might have to step back, meditate, pray, seek advice from others, read, attend group meetings or seminars, etc. Do whatever it takes to understand the relationship that your feelings have with your experience.
- Keep an open mind – If you clam up to every new idea or explanation of your feelings and experience, you aren’t going to learn a single thing. The whole lesson of the experience will be lost. Remain open to new ideas or methods of accomplishing a task or goal. Be willing to explore the possibility of something outside your comfort zone.
- Live your feelings – If you’ve gone through the effort to acknowledge, identify, and understand your feelings, keeping an open mind about how to cope with the emotions will be futile if you are unwilling to let your feelings continue until they are finished or until you put an end to them the right way. Changing a character trait or healing take a long time, so have patience with yourself.
Feelings Are Also Very Physical
Have you ever ended a loving relationship where you were totally invested or were betrayed by the person you loved? As the other person walked away or you became aware of the betrayal, did you experience a pit in your stomach like someone slugged you with their fist, rapid heartbeat that pounded in your ears so loudly that you couldn’t hear anything else, sweaty palms, and overflowing tears from your eyes? Yeah? Those were physical reactions to your emotional feelings.
When you held your child for the first time did you cry with happiness and gratitude? Were you so euphoric that you couldn’t stop smiling and it felt like it spread all over your body? Yes? Well, those smiling feelings and tears were physical reactions to your emotions.
Feelings greatly influence your physical state. That’s why it is very important to learn to control your negative feelings. All the unpleasant emotions can actually make you very sick or die if you do not cope with them adequately. Let me give you a few examples.
If the person in the car behind you is talking on the phone, reading a magazine and driving too close, it probably makes you a bit angry and nervous. When you don’t control your emotions and you let your emotions control you, the anger will build and build if the person remains on your bumper while paying very little attention to their driving. Your whole body will become tight and stressed because of the anger you feel. It could even lead to overwhelming rage and actions that are completely irrational. When you get so angry that you start gritting your teeth and have a metallic taste in your mouth, your feelings have obviously affected your physical body.
Having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) causes your emotions to be completely jumbled up. You not only feel things more deeply, but you have more of a physical response. That’s why some of the symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks accompanied by a racing heart, sweaty palms, overwhelming fear, getting startled easily, being super tense, excessive crying, or having angry outbursts.
At the beginning of my PTSD journey, I experienced flashbacks everyday, all day, and my body was exhausted from feeling so many constant emotions. There were several times I felt that I was probably going to have a heart attack and die because my heart raced so much. I heard it in my ears, saw it beat in the veins on my temples, and felt it all over my body. I couldn’t touch anything without feeling the constant pounding of my heartbeat in my fingertips. I didn’t even have an escape in sleep because for a year and a half I only slept two hours per night. My emotions were so raw that I couldn’t sleep.
Part of the reason I kept writing this blog when I became a victim of PTSD was because it provided me a way to express my feelings. Night after night when I typed my post, my feelings became easier to identify. The task of writing all about how I felt kept my racing mind a bit calmer and it relaxed my body. It also helped me to break down the walls of pain surrounding all the experiences and emotions I had stuffed down into the dark recesses of my heart.
I would not be here today if I had not continued to write.
Expressing my pain and fear saved me. It helped me to not only understand each aspect of PTSD, but it allowed me the opportunity to open up enough to heal. I would have preferred having a person sitting face-to-face to listen to my repeated ramblings, but at the time it wasn’t possible. Instead I wrote to smiling avatar people who left me comments on my blog, Facebook, Twitter and too many forums to list.
Feelings are not bad. We can express them badly, but no feeling is wrong. It is your feeling. You need to enjoy the good feelings to their fullest, heal from the painful feelings, and learn to control our negative feelings. It’s all about balance.