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Do you Feel Too Deeply?

By Rachael Boley on Monday February 8th, 2016

Do you feel too deeply

Learning how to channel emotions into constructive expression

The most creative and expressive pieces of me are birthed out of extreme emotion. Severe pain. Radical joy. The kind of sentiments that, no matter where on the scale of emotion they fall, evoke a physical reaction that begs to be expressed. The kind of emotions that I feel so deep in my body it almost feels unhealthy.

I think I’ve always felt this much, but I never knew what to do with it.

It’s exhausting at times, all these feelings.

Mostly we are taught to conceal that. To not feel too much, or need too much as a result. It’s not really appropriate to burst into tears in front of people over certain things. It’s not always acceptable to just casually experience the depth of life on a daily basis with the people around us.

We do it some; but it’s usually a watered down version.

Alt text hereMostly we are taught to conceal our emotions

When do we fully honor our Emotions?

Outside of being with my boys and a handful of other experiences, the only times I feel fully authentic in my ability to honor the full penetration of my emotions is when I am writing or when I am listening to certain kinds of music. There are few people who seem to operate in such a way that allows the space for such emotion otherwise; yet I have had the great honor of meeting a few.

I discussed this idea with someone recently. The idea of connecting with certain music or people on a deeper level than others. We referenced a particular artist and the maturity and introspection his music invokes and he said, “It’s because he knows what it’s like to be exhausted.”

Are you there?
Screaming in the night
Somewhere
Hanging from the side
Feel the sunlight
The sunlight on my face
It’s cold out here
Lost in outer space
-Ryan Adams, “Feels Like Fire”

Alt text hereThere is no clear cut On and Off switch for our feelings

Can we Function and Feel at the same time?

I often feel afraid of my own depth. Caught between my own layers. It sometimes feels unsafe to allow myself to really pay attention as much as my heart wants me to because everything is just right there. Sitting on top of me, soaking into my skin, forcing me to feel things that don’t always co-habitate well with the daily details of life: my own experiences-the things that have exhausted me; as well as that of others.

There’s a constant push-pull of needing to both function and feel.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I can do both.

But what choice do we really have? We have to find ways to do our life: pay our bills, succeed at our jobs, take care of our responsibilities; while also staying alive: staying present, connecting with one another, feeling things in a real way-even the hard stuff.

The struggle comes I think when we sit in those corners of our own souls, feeling and experiencing the truth of our experiences and the world around us, yet being simultaneously pulled away from it by the other “real” demands of our life.

Miranda July states it perfectly. “All I really want to know is how other people are making it through life? Where do they put their body, hour by hour and how do they cope inside of it?”

Alt text hereHow do we properly ‘feel’ when the real world demands are endless?

Keeping ourselves safe from our Emotions

I find myself needing to numb myself from certain things. Needing to pull away from it in order to survive. But I can’t really. It’s not who I am or how I operate. So then I end up stuck in this swirl of tangible reality versus the intangible. The intangible is what draws me in and makes me feel alive. I crave the moments and experiences that make the intangible tangible. But it’s not really possible to stay there for long and still function.

I think it’s why so many artists and creators are so tortured. They’re trying to exist in the regular world with hearts and souls that live somewhere else. Hearts and souls that feel things on a constant basis that simply aren’t sustainable long-term in a healthy way.

It becomes too severe.

So we find ways to create and express these emotions and experiences; yet live another part of our lives sort of tucked behind a veil. We have to create the distance to keep ourselves safe.

Everyone does this to some degree. Not just “artists.” Because really, we are all artists in our own right.

Alt text hereMany tortured artists turn to drugs and alcohol to suppress their feelings

Losing our child-like Emotional Freedom

Children are the purist representation of an artist heart. They are the most respectful of their own emotions and experiences. As we grow up, we lose that ability because we somehow get taught it isn’t okay. We tell children to stop crying. That they’re being ridiculous. We laugh at their child-like observations and their extreme emotional outbursts over seemingly insignificant things.

We don’t really recognize that it’s us who teaches them along the way that those high highs and low lows are not acceptable. That they need to reign it in and water it down because the people around them won’t be able to handle their feelings.

It’s not wrong. It’s true that living a life of extreme emotions is difficult.

So then we learn ways to cope with life and the feelings we have in response to it. We learn how to taper our emotions to fit into what makes sense and what is more manageable.

But then what do we do with the excess?

Alt text hereWhat do we do the excess emotion?

That’s where our unhealthy behaviors come in. That’s where we numb ourselves out. That’s where we escape. That’s where we become exhausted.

The excess has nowhere safe to go inside our bodies. And unless we work hard to find ways of channeling it into something more healthy and constructive, we find ourselves caught in unhealthy, destructive situations and behaviors.

I’ve experienced a lot of that throughout my life.

I think I almost crave some level of something unhealthy and destructive in my life because it keeps me connected to the excess. It gives me a place to put it.

Every now and then, we are gifted places and people who can handle our excess.

People who understand us at our deepest levels. Places where we are free to feel the excess. People who see us below the surface and connect to us in the areas we feel we have to keep hidden from most of the world in order to just function.

These are the people we bleed with. The people who understand our blood when it pours out. The people who travel life at similar depths.

These are the places we feel safe. The places we feel alive because we are fully ourselves.

Alt text hereWriting and other creative outlets are greats ways to process feelings

Finding healthy ways to channel our Feelings

I am learning that rather than trying to squelch my human experience; rather than believing something about me is broken because I feel so much, I simply need to rest in the people and places that allow the excess. To ride my own waves. To experience my own feelings. And to tuck myself into the beauty that comes from those extremes.

There are healthy ways to channel the excess.

One of those for me is writing. That makes you who read part of my safe place. You catch the excess and allow space for it not only in your lives, but mine too.

That’s how I move from surviving to thriving. When I am allowed to spill out rather than reign in.

It’s not possible at all times. Sometimes we have to contain our souls simply because we do live in “the real world.” It’s why we have bodies-to protect our souls. But sometimes, in order to respect our truest selves, we have to find places to bleed. A place to honor the excess. A place to feel what it’s like to be exhausted. A place to feel the fire.

Thank you for being a part of that place for me.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

 

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7 Responses to Do you Feel Too Deeply?

  1. I’m a southern girl. Texas. I’ve been diagnosed with SEVERE depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
    Now ask me if I feel deeply. With my impulsivity and durastic mood swings, my sense of loneliness and sadness, even when things in life are going well, and let’s not forget the constant overwhelming feeling that I am not enough, never will be enough, and all I do, no matter how high I climb (I have goals obviously) that things will somehow take a turn and crash and burn.
    When I need to pay rent, but I decide I need organic everything for my kids when going grocery shopping and as a result I end up with a $500 grocery receipt, can’t pay rent- but at least we have frozen yogurt. Others will see, my kids will see me, doing my best, and in the south.. that’s key. Cooking, cleaning, ironing, folding, handing up, vacuuming, tending to the kids and husband, and now with inflation/ goals/ equality— I need to go to work too. But instead of going I’m feeling overwhelmed so I call in. Or call my husband because I can’t handle the day. So we lose more money. I want to write- my passion, I want to paint- my passion, but I have little ones. So when do I have time? I can’t clean- I’m in fetal position when I see mess, clutter, filth….
    I live constant lies in trying to cover up my own shit.
    And then when I start to express……
    I’m dramatic. I must be medicated. I must see a professional. I’m not healthy.
    What I left out was something deeper. I was diagnosed in 6th grade with these “illnesses”. Being strong willed, being confident in rebelling against the old southern traditional expectations.. well it wasn’t an option to my mom anyway. In front of everyone she said “it’s a phase” “she’s just hormonal” my dad- he didn’t give a shit whether people liked him or not. We was whatever the fuck he wanted to be.
    He died on his own terms. He didn’t let anyone tell him differently.
    I strive to be like him. In her own way, my mother was the same. Both were black sheeps of their families. I still try my best to live my truth.
    I just recently broke again and had start reassessing where all of my pieces go. But broken is fine for now. It’s beautifully impressively and unmistakably imperfect. THIS.
    THIS IS DIVERSITY. THIS IS YOUR WORLD’S MISSING LINK.
    Those of us that are broken bring you the songs, literature, sermons, speeches, art, the masterpieces, that you all love and connect with so much. WE BRING YOU LIFE. WE ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH.
    WE ARE LIFE.
    God created US, exactly as we are, for a purpose. This article hit home. But like some of the comments indicate, there are those that read this and feel much deeper. Both are right!! Loving ourselves, accepting ourselves is vital. But it’s vital for us to keep feeling deeply so we may forge a path this world currently does not offer.

    I love this song for the Southern woman by Miranda Lambert:

    I cut my bangs with some rusty kitchen scissors
    I screamed his name til the neighbors called the cops
    I numbed the pain at the expense of my liver
    Don’t know what I did next all I know, I couldn’t stop
    Word got around to the barflies and the baptists
    My mama’s phone started ringin’ off the hook
    I can hear her now sayin’ she ain’t gonna have it
    Don’t matter how you feel, it only matters how you look
    Go and fix your make up girl it’s, just a break up run an’
    Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ’cause I
    Raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart,
    But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart
    I wish I could be just a little less dramatic like a,
    Kennedy when Camelot went down in flames
    Leave it to me to be holdin’ the matches
    When the fire trucks show up and there’s nobody else to blame
    Can’t get revenge and keep a spotless reputation
    Sometimes revenge is a choice you gotta make
    My mama came from a softer generation
    Where you get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face
    Go and fix your make up girl it’s, just a break up run an’
    Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ’cause I
    Raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart,
    But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart
    Powder your nose, paint your toes line your lips and keep ’em closed
    Cross your legs, dot your I’s and never let ’em see you cry
    Go and fix your make up well it’s, just a break up run an’
    Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ’cause I
    Raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart,
    But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart

    I’ll end with this- it’s YOUR heart, YOUR life, YOUR purpose-
    All of which, I truly believe, is GOD’S DESTINY.
    We are perfectly imperfect. These are gifts. Now let’s create a better world.

  2. This describes something similar to what I go through with my adhd. I’m so in tune with other people’s emotions that I feel what they’re feeling and then go into sensory emotional overload and then just feel numb it’s a really strange phenomenon

  3. Your timing is impeccable… I believe you have just hit the nail on the head, given us permission to accept our human frailties and idiosyncrasies, accept who we are and from there allow ourselves to grow and experience more even though it might frighten the people closest to us…

  4. Cynthia, with respect, I find your comments rather unclear. There are a lot of studies which have examined the correlation between mental illness and creativity. Depression and other forms of mental or emotional illness are common traits of the majority of creative artists, musicians and writers. It perhaps could be called the grit around which the pearl is spun, emergent from a form of self- protection

  5. I say those that truly feel too deeply have what we call mental illness, and cannot function or cope well in varying levels in life.This article takes the spotlight off of where it should be, on those who painfully cope with those ups and deep, deep downs, those vwho fight the fight of mental illness and cope, somehow, often barely, to function as best they can. Creativity and, drama and the episodes of feely angst should not be muddled with those who suffer truly with the extremes here completely victimized by their own minds.Normal functioning mentally stable people come with various and individual levels of true creativity, eccentricities, angst, emotion and degrees of deep feeling They build, they cry, they create, they expand or shrink the mind.Mental Illness takes it much, much deeper, a vehicle that list its brakess careening downhill. This article is fluff y, trying muchtoo hard to make normal human emotional capacity into something common that truly ill people commit suicide over, and that is truly feeling deeply, feelings these “so called deep feelers” will never experience.

    • I think that if the article resonates with some people, then it serves a wonderful purpose. I don’t think it undermines mental illness and I believe that depression is something very different to what is being described here. To me it is a wonderful description of the difficulties for some people to balance their inner and outer world. Lets face it, the world is a crazy place and some people feel this deeply. That doesn’t necessarily mean one is mentally ill, but it does mean a big struggle to maintain balance…

    • I don’t know, I’ve experienced what is classified as “mental illness” and part of my recovery was acknowledging that I’m allowed to be a deeply emotional person, to find spaces where I can safely express. Actually I’d go as far to say that my period of mental illness was caused by not knowing that I needed those spaces. Freeing myself to feel has kept further attacks at bay.

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