I’m a pretty emotional guy, but I think I used to be a lot more expressive about it. I remember having a few breakdowns in college, screaming and crying like a girl, having my brain shut off, and almost passing out from my overwhelming FEELINGS. Those feelings mostly revolved around how much I hated my college. Maybe some first world problems right there, but it was how I felt, and I expressed that. Though I did hate the school I went to (conservative christian environments for the not-win), I had a good community of guys, support of friends, etc etc, and I recall having more positive expressions of emotion.
After college in the REAL WORLD, that started tapering off. I had people around, but continually connected to them less and less. I still was an emotional guy, but couldn’t express it so well. I “knew how” to argue “properly”, communicate with people, and make my thoughts known, but I did not connect to my own thoughts and emotions. I could just play the role, and not with much feeling expressed to other people. After a bad breakup, things got even worse. It wasn’t about her in the end; it was about me. I know that because I became friendly with her again, but still did not connect my emotions to my expressions. It wasn’t particularly healthy, but neither the end of the world.
This is the part where I talk about how my wife reconnected me with some of my emotions. She grew up in a significantly more emotional environment than I did, probably in both positive and negative ways. She got me to reconnect with myself (and still does…I have to practice it daily or I can lose it), and not in a way I thought would be positive.
Anger. She was a very angry person when we first met…orders of magnitude more than she is now! That’s good, or the getting married thing probably wouldn’t have worked out. In her past, when you felt something, you expressed it. I don’t think that’s always good….but I err far too much on the side of not expressing anything that I feel, and communicating my thoughts on a purely intellectual level. She had ups and downs with my family, and she expressed plenty of emotion about that, and I received plenty of emotional communication from my parents…but I spent all my time and energy parsing through her and their emotions and trying to intellectualize solutions than to consider how I myself felt, and express those feelings to either party, both which love me greatly.
So what were my breakthroughs? Anger. It connected me to myself. I’m not calling what I’ve done good or bad; I’m simply acknowledging at this point they worked to create a more positive ME. Even if it is bad, I LIKED it, and felt good about it. All that happened was I ripped the legs off of a table, and proceeded to use the table legs as a club to destroy the rest of the table. That was some time ago…maybe a year or year and a half. I don’t even remember why…I just remember purely expressing my emotions. As a male, testosterone can make those expressions more on the violent side, but it felt good to have emotions connecting to my brain. I felt pushed too far, and acknowledged my emotions, and acted on them. When I was a kid, I got angry, and wrapped glass bottles in a big towel. I went up into the woods, and smashed the bottles on rocks. I wanted to go up and just smash the bottles on pure emotion, but I knew that was dumb because then I’d be littering, hence wrapping them in a towel so I could dispose of them properly. Little me knew better sometimes than adult me. Sometimes you need to express things. Maybe through tears, maybe through smashing things, maybe through smiling and dancing.
I can’t recreate my table-smashing fervor all the time, or I’ll have no furniture, but I learned that emotions which are deemed “bad” must be acknowledged. It’s part of the human experience that I believe God shoved into our skulls. I don’t know why, but that’s how it worked for me.
Understanding how to connect to my own emotions helped me both connect to my then-girlfriend now-wife, my family, and also helped me learn to build appropriate emotional defenses during arguments with loved ones. I can love them, care about what they are saying, and still appropriately feel my own emotions and allow them to color my behaviour and arguments, remaining true to what I believe, loving others, and coming to positive resolutions.