I have a friend who dives into her heartache. She screams and cries, nose dripping and red. She lays awake at night mourning her loss. She slumps through the days, a zombie to all except her own pain, which she feeds with cigarettes, wine and sad music. But then she comes out the other side and she’s fine. She leaves the sleepless nights, the ragged eyes, the hollow stomach behind, and emerges clean, clear, healed.
I imagine some people would consider her weak for not being in control of her emotions, for not being able to suck it up. I disagree.
I think we lean too heavily towards trying to convince ourselves and others that whatever heartache we are going through, that it’s not so terrible, not so painful, in fact, not so bad at all. We do not dive into it. We don’t even dip a toe.
Why? Fear of pity. Fear of letting someone see us at our most pathetic. Fear that they might never look at us the same again. I have this fear. I like to think of myself as strong, self-sufficient, independent. To lose that, even if for just a little bit, means I am losing something that I value quite deeply, something that I am proud of.
But I also think that not owning what you are feeling is weak. Bottling my feelings isn’t the grown-up way to deal with my shit, it’s cowardly. Denying that I am lonely or sad or needy or scared isn’t clever, it’s destructive.
And I’m not sure you can hide only this or that emotion. I think once you start hiding some of them, they all end up hidden and we end up not diving deeply into our joy, excitement, romanticism or bliss as much as we don’t dive into our pain. And that’s a shame, to lose our ability to be vulnerable.
I am many things: logical, yet whimsical; cerebral, yet romantic; black and white, yet philosophical; kind, yet impatient; open-minded, yet edgy. But I struggle with being vulnerable.
I don’t know how to fix it. But Brené Brown does. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, and she gave a touching and funny TED Talk on the subject. Watch it – it’s 20 minutes you won’t regret. I promise.