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Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Emotional Maturity

Thanks to soh for catalyzing today's post! (see comment on yesterday's post)

There's really two issues here; my emotional sensitivity, and society's reaction to that. The reason that my sensitivity is a problem during conflict is that the emotions from all participants stream into my conciousness and flood me, making it hard to access higher-order thinking. So I avoid asserting myself through conflict, knowing that this is my least effective method of communicating.

This is compounded by the factors that soh describes - it is assumed that a person showing emotion is immature or lacks the confidence needed to successfully navigate the challenge. This is not the image most of us want to project, whether we're at work or in a personal situation - and the distress of knowing that gives the sensitive person yet another emotion to handle!

Emotional control is often seen as a sign of maturity, but I disagree. I have realized that I must embrace the whole me, not just the parts that I like and other people are comfortable with. My emotional life has always been vibrant. Childhood conditioning taught me to squash that down, and I learnt very well. It is an important part of my journey to authentically express my emotions and let go of the results of that action.

Often the response is surprising. Several people have thanked me for crying in workshops because they felt it gave them permission to express themselves too. Other people became impatient and walk out. Some reminded me that my situation is so much better than that of many other people around the world, in an effort to stop me crying. Still others began crying too and couldn't really explain why.

What if we could reframe emotions for the world, and start to value and affirm those who are sensitive? What does it mean when we can't be with emotions? What if bursting into tears was taken as a sign of high intellect and advanced development, or attainment of spiritual integration?

I think that the discomfort people experience with emotion is from societal restrictions on the passionate side of our natures - the side that is both dangerous and healing, like belladonna. It's unpredictable and needs an experienced handler, but letting strong emotion into our discourses informs us in unexpected ways and leads to more creative solutions. Thanks again, soh, for helping me clarify my thoughts about this issue.

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I agree with your opinion that emotions aren't completedly tied with maturity. There are just some of us that are more comfortable expressing emotions, both good and bad. Have I gotten better at controlling them over time? No. Have I gotten better about expressing them appropriately? Yes.
Thanks for the props. It's nice to be the catalyst behind something other than a load of laundry ...the gifted need clean clothing too:-)

For the most part, I agree with what your position on the need and importance for expressing emotions. However, if you should ever find yourself working in the corporate world, I strongly recommend you bend to the accepted standards of that organization. Crying in a meeting or even expressing a dissenting opinion can easily turn into the dreaded Career Limited Move (CLM).

Not everyone wants to be enlightened....particularly, when they make more money than you.

This is probably why you are self employed and why I choose to be self-employed as a freelance/ghost writer for many years after working in a corporate news environment.

RE MK99's comment: Isn't learning to express your emotions appropriately all part and parcel of controlling them? To me, controlling emotion is part of a healthy maturing process. Surpressing emotions is not healthy.
" The reason that my sensitivity is a problem during conflict is that the emotions from all participants stream into my conciousness and flood me, making it hard to access higher-order thinking

That response is biologically rooted (amygdala -adrenaline - fight/flight) and not, as some would believe, a character flaw.

You stated previously that you meditate ? Trying to incorporate a more Zen style of meditation rather than a meditation style from another discipline ( Yoga for example, Tibetan Buddhism,TM etc)might cultivate a greater sense of psychological detachment from situations and buffer your emotional " triggers" from environmental stress more.

D.T. Suzuki would be a good author to look up.
Hi Jo,

Yeah, I wish showing emotion was more accepted in our society. We've inherited a little too much of that stiff upper lip of the British in our culture. I enjoy being around people who show their emotions. They seem more alive.

As for being EXTRA sensitive, I don't know about you, but that can be a little tiring for me. I don't think there is anything wrong with me, just different, but it can be inconvenient. I really like and highly reccomend The Mood Cure. It reccomends supplements for people who feel highly sensitive (and for other things.) It is for people who have less of certain chemicals than they need, but I think it is still helpful for people who just take in more stimulation too.
Thanks everyone for all your suggestions - I'll be checking them out over the next couple of weeks.

I agree, mk99, that there's a difference between controlling emotions and controlling emotional expression. Like you say, soh, it's dangerous to a corporate career to have no control of expression!
I second the mindfulness meditation. There are times when things just need to get done, and there isn't a lot of time and energy available for overt emoting. Learning to just see the feeling, and letting it be there, while leaving it alone and not directly engaging it, is not the kind of limiting, repressive thing it seems to be before you learn how to do it. I've found that it actually allows me to keep having all my feelings without feeling overwhelmed by them, or experiencing them as something that I'm at the mercy of. It does wonders for your self-confidence and social stamina.
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