Crying, uncool? No, it’s actually got some pretty awesome powers.
I’ll be the first to admit that my emotional sensitivity has thrust me headlong into some tragically un-cool territory. Take for example the time when I first watched the Notebook with my friend and cried inconsolably for thirteen minutes after the credits had finished rolling; I know this, as my friend was generous enough to time my tears. The film’s climax is magnificently tragic, perhaps overly so for some, and I cried because it highlighted an unfulfilled desire deep within me, a desire to know how it felt to be truly in love.
I was crying the same tears that I will likely cry during the vows at my wedding. Although outwardly my sobbing seemed pretty pathetic, the internal sentiment shone with an honest dignity that I did not know how to express in any other way. Unable to explain this, I became a laughing stock amongst my friends until I was relieved of that duty by another in the group who managed to embarrass themselves more. Either way, as a vertically gifted, bearded gentleman painted with tattoos, societal norms generally dictate that I should feel pretty inadequate for being so abundantly emotionally capable. I, however, prescribe to a different way of thinking.
During an online conversation with a dear friend recently, I unknowingly typed a message so deeply honest and heartfelt that it sparked a thought process in her mind that ended with her accepting her sensitive nature too, something she had never really come to terms with. She was so enamored with my sentiments that she wrote my words on a scrap of paper and posted them on her bedroom wall as motivation. The words mean as much now as they did when I first naively typed them out.
‘Yes, lucky us for feeling everything! We may live in a way that many others can’t understand, but I would rather cry every day of my life than never experience the satisfaction of spilled tears. Every curse is a gift in disguise. We are very sensitive people and this is a fact that we cannot change. We must realize that we have power in our emotions, once we stop letting them have power over us.’
My message was by no means a condemnation of those who do not feel as intensely as we do. Quite inversely, there are many times that I rue how intensely I experience everyday emotions. This message was simply a call for acceptance of what we are. It was also a nudge towards realizing the potential within our gift, the fruits of which could make us inherently useful to others.
Empathy is defined as the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. Feeling emotions more strongly than others gives us the opportunity to be highly perceptive people. Where others just think that someone was rude to them, I feel the sadness that motivated the words. Where others think that someone is flirting with them, I sense the desperate ploy for comfort and affection. When others say nothing at all, I feel everything. It is a potentially powerful gift when mastered and subsequently used for good. This is what I wanted my friend to understand. If we don’t accept and celebrate our sensitivity, we are condemned to feeling sheepish and broken.
I must also admit that at first my emotional sensitivity was a real problem. I ended up feeling other’s emotions without knowing why or what to do with them. I became a surrogate for their hurt. I felt only their pain and offered no redemption. In essence, I merely wallowed in them. I often ran from this sensation of drowning in other emotions by drowning instead in a sea of alcohol. But this never solved the problems, nor did it offer anyone any value. At best, I was taking a small part of someone’s pain away. At worst, I was doubling their suffering by taking on the hurt and returning it to them.
With time, however, as I learned to purge others pain through mindful appreciation of the situation, I realized that the noble gesture of truly taking someone’s pain away could only be achieved if I offered something positive in return. With time, I realized that the act of removing the pain was the smallest part of healing. It became clear to me that listening; understanding and feeling were merely the grounding needed to heal. The most important stage is the next, the stage where the person must realize that their problem is not the end of the world, however hard, and that the mere fact that they continue to breathe should be enough to be joyful. The only way to do this is to love unconditionally, to heal the pain with love.
Once accepting the gift within emotional overwhelm I suddenly had a purpose. Within my innocent explanation of this to my friend over online text, was a truth that shone through and now another beautifully sensitive person exists to help others with their gift.
We must realize that we have power in our emotions, once we stop letting them have power over us.