right in the feels

Emotions, or feelings, are not everyone’s favorite thing to talk about.

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But…The past few weeks in my honors interpersonal communications course, we’ve dedicated our time to learning about, expressing our own, and understanding others’ emotions.

I’ve always known that I’m an emotional person. I have always thought that I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were fairly easy for others to understand, to read. During this three-week exercise, however, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself and others in my class and even beyond the classroom doors.

Each person in my class was assigned to find a short video that portrayed either how they react to/handle/express emotion, or a video that made them feel a certain emotion. However, we were told to simply find a video that we could explain how it fit the theme. It was a fairly wide topic, I thought nothing of the complexity of this task while sifting through youtube and then my own brain to find a video. In the breadth of this topic, I soon found, each of my classmates found a different perspective.

Several of my classmates found humor the best way to handle emotions and emotion situations. Many others evoked feelings with music; from “Fight Song” to “Cough Syrup” to “Over the Rainbow” to “Concrete Angel” to “Brave” to “If Today Was Your Last Day” —  all of these songs had powerful meaning, some of which I had never before thought about or experienced when hearing that song. The videos, too, held powerful messages packed full with emotion. Another classmate simply attached a satisfying video of a sponge reacting to water being poured on it. He explained that he, like the sponge, soaks up the emotions of those around him and then internalizes all of it. Another spoke about letting emotions out via physical activity and camaraderie on his football team. Another explained how when visiting Greece, she experienced feelings in a place and that place now holds deep emotional meaning for her. Another included a video, entitled “I Don’t Understand God” about how faith is unwavering even throughout confusion and hurt. He explained his desire to be a pastor, and how his faith allows him to feel and express emotion. Another disclosed his depression. Another, her ADD. Myself, my PTSD. Another, his battle with cancer throughout high school. Another, whose routine surgery gone wrong may have left her unable to have children.

Each of us feels, experiences, and discloses emotion differently. For some, it was difficult to stand up and admit to their feelings or their struggles. Others spoke openly.

I always thought that I wore my heart on  my sleeve with my emotions. Some of this, I’ll admit, is true. I cried during many of my classmates presentations. However, I also realized that, like so many of my classmates, my struggle with PTSD may seem well hidden. I’m a positive person, who feels many positive emotions each day. But I struggle, I fall down, I cry. I had no idea that my classmates, who’ve been in my class all semester, had dealt with the issues that they had the courage to speak about during these presentations. It made me realize that we are truly never alone.

What I also realized: emotions are sneaky. They sneak up behind you, they sneak into your mind. You can’t even control which ones end up ‘on your sleeves’.

I have gained so much respect for my classmates. I enjoyed getting to see their perspectives on life and struggle and happiness and all the things in between.

This exercise truly opened my eyes to the depth of what every single person feels. We all feel different things, care about different things, get hurt by different things, feel happiness from different things. If there’s one thing that college has done for me, it has sure opened my mind and my heart to other people’s differences.

My (amazing) professor ended the lesson with these words, “I guess that’s why I don’t like adults as much as my students. Adults get hard. They lose that capacity to understand and appreciate and challenge themselves with others who are different from them. Don’t lose that, folks. That’s a beautiful thing.” 

New Challenge: Accept that others feel as deeply as you do. Open your eyes and your heart. Don’t be afraid to feel.

A friend of mine has recently been struggling, and she has questioned everything she has been feeling. I caught myself saying to her, “You have every right to feel everything you feel.”

You really do.

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and here’s me and my cat snuggling.

…sometimes that’s all you need when you’re feeling emotional.

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