Men and women. We’re so different. Women and women – biologically less so, yet in terms of character, nature, personality – I believe our differences are as broad and deep as those that separate the genders.
I was looking over my musing of a few months back on the topic of what makes men tick. The discussion that followed was illuminating; whether or not I have any answers to my questions isn’t as important as the conversation.
The exchange was eye-opening.
One of the comments came from Kate, a lovely woman who is younger than myself and with a younger family. She mentions that her husband is the one who is clear in articulating his feelings, rather than the other way around.
And as Kate explains, he has no need for her to prove an emotion, he simply accepts whatever she feels. He has said to her (paraphrased):
To feel something makes it real.
So what do you think? If you feel it, is it real?
Do feelings have heft? Should we stop trying to fight them or even explain them, and allow them to coexist peacefully with more measurable aspects of “reality?” Head and heart, hand in hand?
I feel, therefore I am
Oh, I’m not planning on going existential on you, truly. But my academic past flutters through my morning brain with an originating phrase – I think, therefore I am (Descartes) – followed by a nifty assortment of variations on a theme:
- I feel, therefore I am
- I act, therefore I am
- I dream, therefore I am
- I write, therefore I am
Each of these would describe me and define me; I imagine the list is longer, but certainly, the emotional realm is high on that list, no doubt neck-and-neck with thinking.
Which one takes precedence, for me? It depends on the day, the mood, and the circumstance.
Defining ourselves by feelings, and more
Who doesn’t struggle with the delicate process of picking through feelings, especially when they’re new or complicated, and when there are implications and ripple effects that may not be minor? How much harder is it when the feelings are negative – dislike, distrust, anger, and grief?
Do we give equal play to the positive and negative feelings alike? Or do we judge, based on social convention, and try to dismiss those which we feel somehow, we ought not to feel?
When I’m feeling blue, when I’m feeling stressed, when I’m worried, I recognize the damaging impacts, while knowing that I feel what I feel, and I’m better off letting the emotions run their course. I try to hide the feelings from my sons, but they sense when something is off, and generally leave me to my own emotional processes, knowing I will speak when necessary.
I also see the health effects of negative emotions – poor sleep, more aches and pains, less appetite and without question, less energy.
And positive emotions? The joy when a child has a win? The relief when a serious situation is remedied? The thrill when a friend tastes success? The high that comes from falling in love? Who doesn’t feel lightened, brightened, rejuvenated and hopeful when uplifting emotions are given their day?
Love, hate, and everything else
Some say love and hate are two sides of the same coin. I would debate that point. Some say that those who have split up and feel hatred toward their former mates must actually continue to feel love. I disagree.
But I would submit that both love and hate drive us to extraordinary lengths – to heroic acts, and despicable ones. So if these emotions, these feelings – however long they last – power our action engines, aren’t they at least as real as the homes we construct, the machines we build, the words we string together into meaningful communication?
In the past 10 years, I have felt love and hate. Fortunately, I have found that love lasts longer, and is easier to sustain.
These days, my personal interiors would be painted every color of the rainbow – and then some. There are plenty of neutrals and charcoal greys – times I put myself on automatic to persevere with challenging tasks, or in a controlled state, saying nothing in response to a stressed out teen who is expressing his frustration. I am finding strength in new people (brilliant hues!) and unfamiliar (or long forgotten) sensations – the renewal that comes when you allow others into your world, and your trust is not misplaced.
There have been moments of despair over finances, relief over a possible solution, and very recently, a jubilant piece of news which I am still trying to absorb. At the moment, I’m feeling it all – the good, the bad, the frightening, the exhilarating.
I am accepting these feelings in myself, and hoping that – like Kate – I may eventually find a partner who will accept this capacity for feeling in me. Not only as real, but as an asset.
- Do you speak your feelings?
- Is it easier to express certain ones, for example love versus anger?
- Do you consider emotional depth and breadth to be an advantage?
- When it comes to feelings, do you prefer “show, don’t tell?”
- What takes precedence for you – thought, feeling, action – or something else?