I feel a lot (a LOT) and coming to terms with the value of my emotions has been a huge part of my personal journey and personal growth. I went from growing up thinking my feelings made me weak to learning about what emotions are and appreciating what they give me in my intellectual and relational life. Lately, I’m finding a strange and wonderful connection between my feelings and what I’m able to say about the circumstances that elicit my emotions.
I think all emotions point towards something true; specifically, something true that can be said. The feeling part of emotion is based on deeply-held beliefs, but those beliefs are not always conscious. To really understand an emotion, we have to make those beliefs intelligible.
If I could anthropomorphize a bit, I think emotions want to be spoken, want to be identified and understood through words. I think that is their drive and their place in our intellectual lives.
I like the idea of emotions as gesturing towards something speakable, prodding us to examine what is going on and pushing us to put words to what is affecting us. Pushing us towards those words. Towards showing us that our little cocoon of understood world is uncomfortably small and restrictive in this moment, requiring a broadening of our vocabulary, our language, our worldview, and/or our understanding of how and where we fit in a larger world. Because emotions can be uncomfortable, especially those emotions that we don’t yet understand in articulated thought. That discomfort motivates us to understand the world better in order to understand the emotion itself, and we do that, in part, through words that bring additional clarity and communicability to the haze of pre-discursively-understood thoughts.
This also gives me an additional reason to practice compassion for those with really strong, aggressive, even explosive, emotions. While I will never condone acting out in violence or perfectly “trusting” an intense emotion, I can sympathize with the person feeling that emotion so strongly. Maybe there is a connection between feeling something violently and not having words to speak to it. Maybe not. But what a confusing place it must be when someone feels something deeply but is struggling with what to do with that emotion because it hasn’t yet broken out into the clarity of articulated thought. The feeling of being misunderstood, not just by others but by oneself, is its own kind of emotional angst.