Friday, December 18, 2015

Reminder: Emotions Are Good

I've been working really hard in therapy to re-access traumatic incidents in my past and process the emotions attached to those memories. It's exhausting, emotional work. That's why content often doesn't happen on Wednesdays. Less than an hour of EMDR leaves me completely drained and barely able to do work that I get paid for.

It's also the best, most important work I've ever done. I'm realizing more than ever how much of my life has been spent in a numb, emotionally empty state. Not really empty - the truth is I'm full of emotions that have been crammed into my gut and locked up so tight that I often feel like a drain pipe stuffed with my hair, two years worth of soap scum, and a Barbie doll head. Nothing's moving.

Snaking that drain pipe is as painful as a real drain pipe is gross, but once it's done, stuff can move. I can feel again. And as intense as the pain can be, joy and love can be just as intense. My last session got some serious gunk moving, and after the pain faded, I laid in bed and just marveled at how much I was able to feel. I laid beside my boyfriend and started tearing up because of how deep I felt my love for him, and then I started crying outright because I realized that for so many days, weeks, months, and years, I've missed out on such wonderful emotion.

Other than standing upright and having opposable thumbs, deep, complex emotion is what separates human beings and other animals. It's an essential part of the human experience. It's what makes us human at all. But anyone can tell you that. I can tell you from experience that devaluing emotion, keeping it locked up and refusing to feel it at all, creates incredible suffering and dulls or even utterly erases the human experience.

How many beautiful scenes have I seen, recognized the beauty and majesty of it all, and was still unable to feel anything? I've touched a glacier, seen the moon rise over Lake Washington, and witnessed rare and incredible cloud formations during my 27 years in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I grieve the fact that I could have felt so much more during those experiences, but I didn't.

The reason I'm writing about this is because it really makes me pity a lot of the men I've spoken to about feminism and other social issues. It makes me pity the logic worshiping crown. These are the people who will say outright that being emotional over something means you're disqualified from having an opinion on it. They chide emotions and spiritual experiences as being obstacles to "logic" or "reason," as ill-defined as those words are. My boyfriend is a very spiritual person - one of the reasons I was so fascinated with him to begin with - and he's often mocked or condescended to by logic-worshiping atheists who act as though all spirituality is contrary to intelligence (they're ableist as fuck, too).

Certain anti-feminists and atheists alike act as though unemotional logic and reason are the height of human existence. And yes, humans evolved the capacity for complex reasoning and abstract thought. But at the same time, we evolved a greater capacity for complex and deep emotions. To deny one is to deny someone's humanity. To mock one over the other is to mock half of a whole.

And these people must be so miserable. They must have missed out on at least as much as I have. Denying your emotions can make you so cold and so stiff. I've felt so many times like I was stopped up inside - feeling the emotional equivalent of having your intestines stuffed full of necrotic meat. That shit will cause incredible pain and can kill you. I've felt so dead inside, I've looked at the world and wondered what the point of living is. I've been so depressed because it feels like it's not worth existing for another 50 or so years, just slogging through life day by day to stay alive, and for what?

If you can't feel the pain associated with looking deep into rape culture and grieving for your friends, family members, and people everywhere who have been hurt, then neither can you feel joy. If you can't feel the anger from seeing people of color gunned down by police and subjected to brutal treatment from cops and politicians alike, then you can't feel love, either. You may feel brief feelings of contentment, even happiness and mirth, attraction and sexual arousal. But it's not the same as joy, deep love, and affection. All these emotions are what make life worth living.

So when people mock me or chide me for being so emotional over things, I don't know whether to laugh or pity them. I've already decided that I love my anger, and I'm generalizing that to all my emotions. I love my outrage, I love my grief, I love my sadness, I love my fear. I love the fact that I get upset over injustices that may seem small compared to others. I love every emotional experience. I means I'm human. It means I'm healing.

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