So I’m in my local supermarket pondering over which cake was the yummiest and had the least calories… when the cake lady came all the way around the counter to tell me that she liked my dress. Thank you I said and continued with my decision making. She then launched into the most horrific story I have heard in a long time. She told me that four months ago as she was preparing dinner, she got the call to tell her that her husband of only three months and her 18 year old daughter were killed while driving home by a guy driving a cement mixer who had not seen them when he turned the corner. She told me in more detail than I wanted to know about how she had spent two weeks in hospital before she was strong enough to identify their bodies…and how the money they had been saving for a honeymoon that had been twenty years overdue was the money she had used to bury them. We stood in aisle 23 between the cakes and the wine for about an hour. She told her story and I listened. Both of us in tears and both as emotional as hell.
Technologically rich…emotionally poor
It is amazing to realise how advanced we are in the fields of technology, medicine, travel and yet we do not understand our emotions. We know little about the 6000 sensations in our body called emotions that are finely tuned and there to deal with every eventually that life can bring. In our fast, furious and testosterone driven world it isn’t cool to show emotions…to care too much is a sign of weakness….if you are over sensitive then there must be something wrong with you. So everyone’s walks around armoured up and pretending that their emotions and feeling don’t matter. We are so afraid that people may look down on us… judge us… pity us…take advantage.
The price of poor emotions
The world is an emotional place. We hear about tragedies every day and they keep coming. One of the ways we deal with suffering when we witness it is to numb ourselves. This is a coping strategy. But not a very effective one!
-The problem with this is approach is that when it is our turn to suffer personal issues we have no skills to deal with them.
-We know nothing of what our emotions do for us and how key they are to our survival. For the most part what we do is lump all emotions into two main categories. Good emotions or bad emotions. Emotions are not good or bad. That implies judgement. Emotions do not adhere to the laws of reason. Emotions are the property of the heart and the gut. Reasoning and thinking is the property of the mind. Emotions are there to get your attention. When something happens… your emotions bounce in to action. They are five times faster than thought. Their job is to keep you alive and keep you of harm’s way. Emotions are not the bad guys. They do their job whether you like it or not. If we classify emotions as good or bad then it stands to reason that we want to throw out the bad ones and keep the good ones. The problem is that it doesn’t work like that. Emotions come as a full package. You can’t cherry pick the ones you like and disregard the rest. When you deny the bad emotions you deny the good ones as well. If you are not open to pain then you give up the right to pleasure.
-There are few instructions to show people how to understand their emotions. So when they surface we don’t know what to do with them. We think that emotions and being emotional causes stress. It does not. It is the tension caused by suppressing your emotions that causes the stress. It is the suppression of your emotions that makes you sick.
Show some emotion…
-Showing our emotions can help us connect with others because by being willing to expose yourself and be unguarded shows our vulnerability. It reminds people that we are all connected in so far as we all of have issues. By showing up and showing who you are gives people permission to show up and be themselves.
-Only when you are in touch with your emotions can you show empathy which is the highest order of emotional intelligence. You cannot empathise with someone’s feelings if you have no idea what feelings are.
-Getting in touch with your emotions means coming to terms with who you are. You cannot tame it until you can name it. If you know what makes you tick emotion-wise then you can begin to develop emotional intelligence and strategies for when times get rough.
-The best way to deal with emotions is to let them do their job. If you let them do their job they will pass through and not gang up on you.
-Being willing to be being vulnerable is key. When you show willingness and openness then you access the emotion you need to get you through. It is your courage. According to Brene Brown a Research Professor and expert in social science “We cannot get courage without walking through vulnerability”. Courage comes from the French root cour or coeur, which means heart. Courage has to do with the heart. When faced with life blows…if you are prepared to be ‘seen’ and to ‘face the music’ you get to discover your authentic self. You get to find out what you are really made of and you get to find out what makes you tick…and it all good stuff!
So if you ever get a “Jesus take the wheel” moment …do not shy away from your emotions. Be willing to be vulnerable. Your emotions are your body’s medicine. It may hurt for a while but in the end it will be a lot better.
I want to tell you about cake lady. She told me that her colleagues had collected a tidy sum of money for her and had taken care of her in every which way. She says she is grateful and shows appreciate whenever she can. She smiles as often as possible because she knows that many people suffer in silence and a smile can break up the bleakness of their day. She has spent time with the driver of the cement mixer and she has forgiven him. She is planning to go to the US next year.
I don’t know how many people were in the supermarket that day. Probably a hundred or so. How many psycho therapists…who knows? What are the chances of cake lady picking me to share her story with? She got therapy…you get this blog… and I didn’t buy a cake!