I was in therapy with someone I was close to. I shall not name names. But one session went like this…
Me: “You don’t make space for my emotions. Unless I have anything other than pleasant emotions towards you, I have no space to feel.”
Person I was in therapy with looks at therapist and says: “She’s just so intense (referring to me, of course).”
Therapist says to the person I was in therapy with: “Intense is who Erika is.”
And then the clouds parted for me…. “It is who I am. I handle my emotions responsibly, but dammit I AM intense, I shouldn’t be ashamed of that or make it small.”
This post is for the ones of us who have BIG emotions. The ones who are intense; who have passion that is off the charts. Who aren’t afraid to say they feel things that don’t feel good (aka darker emotions). The ones who have been called crazy, or unreasonable. The ones who could feel what was wrong when no one else could. The ones who have been told to get over it, or asked what the heck was the matter with us.
Here’s the deal; there is nothing wrong with big, dark emotions, and they are normal. However, the ways we deal with the darker emotions are either going to serve or destroy our connections. Ultimately, all dark emotions, big and small, are opportunities to deepen connection & grow closer, instead of tear us apart. But, we have to choose that path of deeper connection in order for this to work, and it takes both people choosing it for emotions to turn into language of connection versus ammo.
Big Emotions, Big Hearts.
I always say, “Big emotions, big hearts.” People with big emotions have big hearts. That isn’t to say people who have less big emotions are heartless or have small, pewny, little bitch hearts… that isn’t true. It is simply my belief that people with big emotions have the gift of being able to feel and navigate the world of the heart in a way that is more amplified in energy than average. This can be a gift; but, it can be a curse if we don’t know how to channel that energy, or use the power for anything other than connection.
I have noticed over the years that people hide their big emotions when they feel it is either unsafe, or they feel shame around having them (or both). This typically turns into variations of numbing, drugging, drinking, denial, violence, alternate personalities (not even clinical, just making yourself someone you aren’t in order to fit in and not be the perceived freak you are), lying to yourself (and therefore others), control issues, mental health issues, etc. We need to make safe space to feel all of our energy and channel it in ways that serve us.
Why Explosions Happen
I remember many moons ago standing across the room from my former husband. I was telling him how frustrated I was that he wasn’t going to therapy with me. We were into year 3 of having marital issues, and things weren’t getting better. Some minor shifts had happened with some couple’s counseling we received in California, but we were still majorly short of where I wanted us to be in terms of communicating and connecting.
I don’t remember what was said verbatum, but his response was akin to, “No, we don’t need therapy because we are fine.” I could feel in my body what can only be described as murderous rage… a nuclear cloud was ascending out of me. I had spent a lifetime making my big emotions small, and now that lifetime was coming out. All 30 years of repressed rage was about to explode. Sound the nuclear alarm…
I am not a screamer, but I screamed right then at the top of my lungs, “DO YOU SEE ME?!? DO YOU SEE THIS MARRIAGE!??! I AM NOT OK, WE ARE NOT OK!!!! DO YOU SEE HOW CRAZY I AM RIGHT NOW?!??! I FEEL LIKE I AM TAKING CRAZY PILLS!!!! DOES THIS LOOK LIKE FINE TO YOU?!???!” Just so you are aware, my screams are not soft, and we were in our new house which was all wood floors, bare walls, and no furniture. I am sure our new neighbors could hear my nuclear cloud, and am certain they were concerned if they could. I had hit my limit, and I was furious. My former husband was paralyzed in what I am sure was terror and overwhelm. We had been together 10 years, and he had never seen me in that state.
And this is WHY it is important to never repress. The pressure cooker will explode at some point when there is nowhere else for it to go. That’s when we have serious potential for doing more harm to ourselves and others. This is where we run into emotions creating disconnect rather than bringing us closer together in connection. Explosions make environments less safe. One of our greatest needs as humans is to feel safe. So, what I am saying is, the more often we deal with our darker emotions, the less likely it is for explosions to happen. You can have big emotions without explosions.
Darker emotions with explosive potential include anger, rage, panic, terror, fury, disgust, agony, hate, overwhelm, irritation, and betrayal (these are simply some examples, not an exhaustive list). They can be high impact, especially when we feel them towards someone. The emotions in and of themselves are not right or wrong, but merely data as to what is going on in our hearts. You will hear me say this often, because once you embrace that, the easier your life and relationships will be.
The following insights come from my years of working as a nurse on psych wards with people with big emotions, and also my personal experience of being a human with big emotions on planet earth.
Healthy Habits to Feel and Release Big, Dark Emotions
We can feel big, dark emotions in ways that are not self-destructive or other-destructive. You can be angry as all get-out without be destructive. (I will say one caveat is if you are in relationships with people who are severely wounded and have narcissistic type personalities as a result. You can express your anger, frustration, or discontent in the most polite and loving way possible, and they will feel wounded because they’re not getting validation that they’re perfect, and your emotions will be perceived as an insult if they have to do with a situation involving them. They will act like you wounded them simply by having a darker emotion with them… there is nothing you can do to change that. That will be another blog for another time!) Otherwise, here are ways you can more healthily navigate the big and dark.
Stand Proud in Your Heart
It is possible to have big, dark emotions AND a healthy relationship with yourself and others! Part of that journey is recognizing and being proud of the heart you have instead of hiding it. Thank it for being such a big feeler, and commit to the gifts you have in that space. Embrace that you can channel that energy in constructive ways, just knowing that healing is the journey that is required to alchemize.
Take care, love big, be safe, be free,
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