Happy is not the only acceptable emotion

I am a member of a gentle mothering board that employs this mantra to remind us that we should be allowed expression of all our emotions. I feel this particularly applies to the gifted individual, since extreme highs and lows are a common gifted characteristic (especially since we can see far down the line of cause and effect and we know that we are powerless to stop many of the mistakes we see other people make time and time again, and we tend to have more existential depression).

Today, I chose to visit a message board for the gifted (My Gifted Life) where a discussion about emotions and moods had been started. This post is borne out of that discussion.

I have had the privilege of making an online friend of a fellow highly intelligent (dare I say gifted?) individual who met me intensity for intensity over emails for slightly over 2 months. I know that we let our emotional selves have free expression as we discussed events from our childhoods, the loves of our lives, the current dearth of real life friendships who can withstand our emotional highs and lows. Not all of our conversations were happy ones, and in fact, there were quite a few that were quite when one or both of us were at an emotional low point (some sadness and anger too). But all of the conversations made me feel “alive” in a way that I haven’t for quite some time (that’s the sad reality of being a gifted stay at home mom – no matter how many blogs I create or how many projects I try to do with the kids, I still require a lot of intellectual stimulation and more importantly respectful FEEDBACK for my thoughts).

I found something curious had happened during that 2 month span of time – many of my overexcitabilities were triggered. The ideas generated in our conversation created a cascade of creativity in me (I wrote 51 blog posts on my blog in that 2 month span).

Our conversations online have been fewer and further between due to the realities and responsibilities of life. And so, as a result, the intensity of course is now tempered now that there is nothing to stimulate it. It feels very much like being temporarily lobotomized. Even my writing has significantly decreased because I have nothing I’m passionate (either positively or negatively) about.

It’s really a frustrating feeling to not have an outlet for the full range of feelings. While I don’t like feeling totally miserable at the time I’m feeling miserable, I realize it is far better to go to the depths of despair and the heights of elation than to live life emotionally one-sided.

There is a richness to life when you can be allowed the freedom to express yourself. When someone not only can accept your feelings (the sad, the despairing and even angry feelings as well as the happy ones), but help you process what you are feeling in a respectful way – this is priceless. This is also incredibly hard to find a friend as an adult. Besides, who has time for knowing one another on a deep level anymore? Things are much different when I was still in the workforce. Yes, some of my colleagues had families, and in the last two years before I quit my job, I did too, but while we were at work, we talked about things of interest to us as adults.

Sometimes we are led to believe there is something wrong with us if we succumb to the depths of emotion, as if they are something bad and to be avoided at all costs. I’m left wondering why? Some sadness, despair, anger is actually useful.

Feeling depths of sadness makes you more appreciative of the joys that you find in life. Feeling despair, while unpleasant, won’t (by itself) kill us. Despair is due to losses of something good in our lives (friendships, loved ones, prosperity) or anxieties. But if we are able to express and process our grief, we often learn something from it and are able to move forward. Even feeling anger can be useful – it can give us energy and momentum to propel us forward when we need to change something in our lives.

Where’s the line drawn between a true “chemical imbalance” and depressions due to not having a safe outlet to express our feelings and have them reflected back to us and accepted and understood.

I think that’s why more and more people turn to anti-depressants. No one has time to help us process our “negative” emotions, so we have to deal with everything ourselves and are left feeling like no one cares how we feel, especially when we struggle with the more difficult feelings like sadness, despair/anxiety, and anger.

I think so many of us have difficulties with accepting the negative emotions from other adults. I know it’s easier for me to accept my children’s negative emotions, and even my own negative emotions, but it’s harder to accept it from other adults close to me (like when my mother and step-dad fought yesterday) and in particular my husband. I have a visceral reaction to his anger, and I am reminded of walking on eggshells around my step-dad so I didn’t elicit his wrath.

I have inherited a hair-trigger when it comes to accepting negative emotions in him because of that. There was a lot of anger in my home growing up, and no-one really practiced tolerance and knew how to effectively listen for understanding and how to help turn down the intensity enough for effective communication to take place. Instead, there was lots of yelling, insults and criticism and the occasional slap across the face (one which sent my glasses flying off my head as an 10 year old).

I wonder if this is a reason why it’s difficult for me to be where I’m at right now. All I have time is to think about such things and want to discuss them but there’s no one to discuss them with. Sometimes I wish I would just get the therapy I have been wanting for a long time. At least it would be someone I could see on a regular basis to talk about my issues with.

It’s a difficult thing indeed and it’s something I wish I had an answer for. I’m hoping to give this some more thought and return to it in future posts, because it’s an area of mine that needs work.

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This entry was posted in emotion coaching, gifted adults, gifted support, Intensity, personal growth, personal issues. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Happy is not the only acceptable emotion

  1. Mom Gail says:

    I’m sorry that you feel so alone, that no one cares. Honey, call anytime any day. I will be there for you. I wish we lived closer. I don’t want you to feel that lost, or alone. I know that I’m not the most educated person, but I can listen, and I understand a lot more than you know. Let me help.

    I love you, Mom Gail

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Mom Gail –

    Thank you. It’s not that I don’t think anyone cares. I know you and Dad do. I wrote this post most of all because I miss that friend. We had a lot in common – from being really misunderstood as kids (and abused – though mine was more verbal abuse) and hurt by our mothers to not finding friends you can really discuss some complicated things with.

    I know I have J, but I still like having friends outside of him. The friend I had really shared some interesting thoughts about the things that happened to him, and the things that happened to me. He even helped me to understand some of my mixed feelings about God and organized religion.

    I felt like I was “getting somewhere” with my analysis of things. I felt like I finally could take a look at some of my losses and help me analyze things. He also had some very bright kids and I was hoping to learn how he went about meeting the needs of kids who need more parental guidance because they develop asynchronously (some areas developing way ahead of others).

    I was learning a lot from him. And now…well, I haven’t heard from him in a while. Things are either not going well for him, or his internet connection was really messed up like he said.

    And…well… I know I missed a significant date in your life recently. I feel terrible about that. But I have some things to send to you, except I keep forgetting to.

    At any rate. Mom Gail. I hope anything I write about on my blog doesn’t end up hurting you…because it’s not supposed to. It’s just a place where I can whine a bit without hurting those I love, you know?

  3. Mom Gail says:

    I’m sorry that you haven’t heard from your friend in a while. I hope everything is alright with him. It’s alright to whine once in a while. It’s perfectly okay to want friends besides J. I have a couple of gf that I talk to, but, they are so involved with their own lives, newlywed, newly engaged, that I feel that I would be interfering. I know that they wouldn’t mind talking, but that’s just me. Dad is doing great. How’s your mom? I know it must have been very frightening for all of you. I hope things go alright for her. As much as I dislike her, I wish her no ill will.
    The pictures that you took on your birthday trip were beautiful, and yes, that includes the pictures of you. You have always been beautiful to me, your sisters too.
    Don’t worry about hurting me, I have developed a pretty thick skin over the years. When I get these crocheted throws done, I’ll take some pictures an send them to you. That’s my outlet. I love you

  4. joanna says:

    Casey,
    Having someone to talk to who understands the strange world of intensity and excitability is huge. I don’t have the same intensities as you but I see them in my daughter and as I have told you before, I am familiar with the research. However, what I understand the most is the need – the urgent need – of being able to share all the varied emotions.

    As a British child, my emotions were taught to be muted and as the son of a preacher, my husband was taught never to show his true feelings. Now, as a couple we have a hard time allowing our children their anger. But I know this isn’t right. I am trying to teach them to express it in other ways. I ask my oldest to draw her feelings and when her skills allow her I will tell her to write a journal like I do.

    Although my husband and I can talk about anything, my journal is my only true friend, as in, I don’t censor my words. I know that feeling of walking on egg-shells when I’m (irrationally) afraid of upsetting my husband. I don’t have many friends myself – hard to let them in – but I know I NEED friends. I need expression. So I write.

    I totally agree that when we are allowed to express our true selves and are ACCEPTED for ourselves then we are freer to be that person, and therefore more creative. When I left my brain-suck job my husband’s support of my art and writing generated a flurry of activity that resulted in what I am doing now.

    As an aside, the fact you mentioned God and organized religion tells me we have even more in common… read this: http://wordaccordingtojo.blogspot.com/2009/03/god-and-condoms.html.

    Please feel free to write to me. I need friends too…
    joanna

  5. joanna says:

    Oh, and here’s another strange thing, my MIL is also calls herself Gail Mom.

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Mom Gail – I will be emailing you soon. I have to go back to the dentist today, so I will be getting ready soon.

  7. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Joanna – I emailed you. I see I have a lot of catching up to do with your jlucymuses blog too. But I used up all my internet time this morning and have to get going. I will respond more completely to this post and will catch up later with you.

    Thank you so much for replying so thoughtfully. I appreciate you in my life, even if it is only via the internet.

  8. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Joanna…hmmm…that is pretty coincidental, no?

    I got back from the dentist and spent time catching up with some phone calls. Tonight is orientation for my middle daughter (the one overcoming selective mutism). I guess I’m going to have to wait on catching up yet. I have to write a letter of introduction to the teacher about some of dds strengths so she knows her a bit.

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