Understanding Your Feelings and Emotions
Theoretically, most of us would accept the fact that emotions are neither meritorious nor sinful. Feeling frustrated, or being annoyed, or experiencing fears and anger do not make one a good or bad person. Practically however, most of us do not accept in our day to day living what we would accept in theory. We exercise a rather strict censorship of our emotions. If our censoring consciences do not approve certain emotions, we repress these emotions into our unconscious minds. Experts in psychosomatic medicine say that the most common cause of fatigue, stress and actual sickness is this repression emotions. The fact is that we have emotions which we do not want to admit. We are ashamed of our fears, or we feel guilty because of our anger. We are reluctant to admit our emotional and physical desires.
Before anyone of us can be liberated enough to practise ‘gut’level communication’, in which we will be emotionally open and honest, we must feel convinced that emotions are not moral but simply factual. My jealousies, my anger, my sexual desires, my fears, and so forth do not make me a good or bad person. Of course, these emotional reactions must be integrated by my mind and will. However, before is can integrate them, or before I can decide whether to act on them or not, I must allow them to arise; I must clearly hear what they are saying to me. I must be able to say, without any sense of moral reprehension that I am afraid or angry or sexually aroused.
Before I will be free enough to do this, however, I must be convinced that emotions are not moral, neither good nor bad in themselves. I must be convinced, too, that the experience of the whole gamut of emotions is a part of the human condition, the inheritance of every person.
In learning to understand ourselves we must learn to become very open and accepting of all our emotional reactions. Being in touch with our emotions is the key to our personal understanding. Consequently, we must learn to listen to our own emotions if we are to become growing persons. The basic belief in which I must repose absolute faith in order to understand myself by listening to my emotions is this: No one else can cause or be responsible for my emotions. Of course, we feel better assigning our emotions to other people. ‘You made me angry….. You frightened me….. You made me jealous…..’, and so forth. The emotions that are already in me, waiting to be activated. The distinction between causing and stimulating emotions is not just a play on words. The acceptance of the truth involved is critical. If I think you can make me angry, then when I become angry I simply lay the blame and pin the problem on you. I can then walk away from our encounter learning nothing, concluding only that you were at fault because you make me angry. Then I need to ask no further questions of myself because I have laid all the responsibility at your feet.
If you and I can really believe this we will begin dealing with our emotions in a profitable way. We will no longer allow ourselves the easy escape into judgement and condemnation of others. We will become growing persons, more and more in touch with our selves. Growing always begins where blaming ends.
I am fairly sure that when you or I confide our feelings to another, we have a sense that we are really sharing our true selves. We don’t have many completely original thoughts. At least I can’t remember having one. And we haven’t made many original choices. But no one in all of human history has had your precise feelings. No one has ever felt as I do. Our feelings are as unique and original as our fingerprints. for example , a person might summarise himself or herself by saying; “I am a Christian and a lawyer, and my family is my life”. Nice and neat, eh? But you don’t really get to know the individual person from such summary statements. The majority of the population of this country identify with Christianity, and there is a lawyer for every seven thousand of us. Devotees of the family are also fairly common.
People who are willing to share only their thoughts and choices with us in this manner might as well be sharing the last book they have read. But if a person confides and describes his or her feelings – the loneliness and the struggling, the fears and the joys, the peace of certainty and the pain of doubt – then we will have a sense that we are getting to know who they person really is. Tell me what you think and I can possibly put you in a category; tell me what you feel and i will get to know you.
To know me you must know my feelings. And only when you know me through dialogue, at any moment of my life, will you be able to understand my ideas, preferences and my intentions, shared in discussion. My emotions are the key to me. When I give you this key, you can come into me, and share with me the most precious gift I have to offer you: Myself.
We can share anything else with a person and still not be close to that person. We can share food and money. We can even share sexual intimacy and not be close to the other person. But there is one thing, I would suggest, that we cannot share with another person and not to be close. The honest and open sharing of all feelings has to result in personal closeness and intimacy.
How does it feel to be a priest? Are you lonely? What is Saturday night for you? When you walk down the street and there is a young, loving couple walking in front of you, holding hands, do you wish you had a hand you could hold? Do you sing in your heart, “Hello, Young Lovers Wherever You Are”? How do you feel about these things? If I tell you how I feel about these things, then you will get to know me. You can talk on the level of cliches or about other people, and have all the news at your fingertips, or you can be the humorous person who keeps everyone laughing, but you don’t really share yourself until you share your feelings. We call it ‘gut’level’ communication. It is this, I think, that is the secret of real love.