Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Those...you know...feelings.

Emotion is a subject that has occupied my mind for some time. It's a tricky subject, not something with exactly tried-and-true rules that I know of (it's something you have to get a feel for. Har har). Back around October '09, I became very frustrated with it. Emotions cloud logic and inhibit good judgement [if not handled properly], and logic is something I place high value on. I was frustrated with people around me who made negative life-changing decisions because they let their emotions control them. I didn't want to be in that place. So I began training my mind to control my emotions. Or more often, squelch them. I got very good at it and it's a skill I still have, with a decent amount of mastery over it. I liked it better than being emotional.

It made me...um, feel, stronger and more invulnerable. Nothing got to me. There were lapses, times my grasp on my guard slipped, but they were part of learning. I could make decisions and handle life from a purely logical standpoint. However, I found my behavior toward others becoming too stand-offish. My lack of emotion protected me from insecurity, but it locked the door to my soul and nipped things like compassion and sympathy. I couldn't relate to much of anyone (okay, that's never been my strong point regardless of feelings, but that made it worse).

Let me clarify something here - I wasn't completely without emotion (that, I think, is impossible, unless someone has invented Prozium*). One night, God was like, here, try it out. I felt nothing. I got zero enjoyment out of anything (considering I was reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it was very strange). Every activity seemed meaningless (okay, maybe that book isn't a great example). It didn't last very long, but long enough for me to grasp what it 's like. After that, I never wanted to be truly emotionless. Just mostly. :p

So, back to being stand-offish. I had an imbroglio on my hands. Previously, I was not a very confident person. When I started gaining more control over my feelings, I stopped caring what people thought of me, and that made me happy. I started liking myself. But eventually, I realized the reason wasn't a good one - I didn't care what people thought of me because I didn't care much about people, period. I knew I needed to change because I needed to love them. But being emotional made me feel insecure, and being insecure made me awkward and self-conscious, and being awkward and self-conscious didn't put me in a good position to love people. You have to love yourself to love others (see my first blog post), but I didn't love myself when I was insecure. My options seemed to be remaining hardened and working on being kind and loving there, or being insecure and hating myself and trying to love people anyway. So I went with the first, but I wanted a real answer to my conundrum.

I eventually decided being so unemotional wasn't good for me. I don't remember the whole thought process. But I started to let myself feel more freely again. I came to a point where I was feeling more than I wanted to, more than was comfortable, and got back on the seesaw of my options. Obviously my comfort wasn't a priority in the scheme of things. How much should I let myself feel? Was it an amoral question? Did God have a preference for me? Which pros and cons outweighed each other? I needed answers.

I didn't want to change. To be honest, I'd come to see emotion as weakness and hated the thought of letting it loose in my life. But another part of me knew it was important. That God didn't just give us emotion for kicks. That by suppressing it, I wasn't living up to my full potential. One night, the questions wouldn't let me sleep and I got on the internet. Vented a bit. One of my friends who'd been in the same place told me this:

"I decided, ultimately, that to feel is one of the most desperately important things there is - that without it, we are locking ourselves out of the fullness of God's plans for our stories. However, I think that's a decision that has to be made by each individual...for to feel is perhaps the bravest thing anyone can ever do."

And I finally let myself realize what I needed to - that to feel is okay. Normal. Good. It takes more courage to accept and allow that than it does to be the hard, untouchable girl. In the moment, it was a difficult decision to make, to allow much feeling back into my life. It was painful. A voice in my head said it was lowering myself, weakening myself, but another told me it was really living.

This doesn't mean that I sacrifice my self-control (Galatians 5:22-24. Self-control is fruit of the Spirit). This absolutely does not mean that I should/do let my emotions control me or make decisions for me ("The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it." - C. S. Lewis). It means that I stop being afraid of them. I don't give them free reign to wreak havoc on me as they please,; I examine my emotions when called for, and when they don't line up with who I am or who I want to be, I balance my head. I weigh them against common and Biblical sense. But I also enjoy them. Embrace being real, being me. Being vulnerable and broken, and the Healer who 's molding me into who He wants me to be. No matter how I feel, I've learned to accept who I am right now, when I'm up and when I'm down. Being sad or tired or withdrawn or moved or excited or happy aren't things we need to apologize for. It's part of life. Like everything, there is a balance to be found. I had to let go of some of my control-freak tendencies (when it comes to myself. I am not at all concerned about controlling other people or my environment or my circumstances - just me. In the other areas, I'm probably one of the most laid-back people you'll meet) and found that letting yourself feel doesn't mean you'll go crazy. Having been on both sides of the seesaw, my contentment doesn't depend on my emotional state of being - mind over matter - but I no longer restrain everything.

Emotion is part of the beautiful, messy experience of being human. To quote the movie Terminator Salvation, "What is it that makes us human? It's not something you can program. You can't put it into a chip. It's the strength of the human heart. The difference between us and machines." In the movie, machines are trying to take over the world. The human commander wants the resistance to attack a terminator facility without rescuing the people inside. But of course John Connor wants to rescue the peeps. "Listen carefully, if we attack tonight, our humanity is lost. Command wants us to fight like machines. They want us to make cold, calculated decisions. But we are not machines! And if we behave like them, then what is the point in winning?" (Yes, I'm a geek and proud of it. Leeeeroy Jeeenkins.)

*Remember the asterisk in that one paragraph up there somewhere? Prozium is the fictional drug in one of my favorite movies ever, Equilibrium, that balances the chemicals in the human brain so perfectly that no one in the society feels emotion. It's an excellent movie. I highly recommend it if you can handle intense fighting (it's rated R for violence, but there's little blood and no gore, unless you count the scene where someone's face is cut off with a samurai sword and slides to the floor. Close your eyes). A good book on the same general topic is The Giver by Lois Lowry. It's fiction and an extremely easy read, worth the two or three hours it took me to get through it.

I think I'm finished with this post now. Sometimes I fail to properly convey my meaning (and I stayed up until 2 AM last night), but I hope it makes sense to you.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I could add anything to this, aside from to say "I understand, and I agree so greatly."

    Also? You have good movie taste. You know, for the record. :-P

    ReplyDelete