by Dick Innes
On one occasion when the famed opera singer, Jenny Lind was performing to a crowd of 20,000 people in New York, her audience seemed unappreciative and unresponsive compared to what she was used to in other places. She sang many of the classics, some of which were very popular at the time, but applause was much less than enthusiastic.
Then she began to sing the strains of "Home Sweet Home." Hearts were touched as emotion swept through the audience. When she finished, thunderous applause followed.
Feelings. What would life be like without them? Like flowers without fragrance. Night without moon or stars. Food without taste. Grass and sky without color. Skin and hands without a sense of touch. Everything would be black and white. Deadly dull and boring. We'd be little more than computers.
Fortunately our society is acknowledging that we are much more than body and mind. We are spirit as well with a deep capacity to feel. Also, integrating our emotions with body and mind is essential for healthy and wholesome living.
But unfortunately, many of us still have buried or repressed feelings. As such we have limited emotional vision and are unable to see with our heart. We also lack compassion and cannot love with all our heart. We may be very knowledgeable, but lack true wisdom. Knowledge is a matter of the head. Wisdom is a balance between the thinking mind and feeling heart.
It has been claimed that eighty percent of life's satisfaction comes from relationships and I would suggest that about eighty percent of meaningful relationships are a matter of the heart. The mind is important, but we love with the heart.
In marriage, for example, to relate meaningfully, people need to communicate heart to heart. When "relating head to head, like marbles, they ricochet off one another." They contact but don't connect. They may go through the motions but lack emotion. There may be chemistry but no intimacy. And chemistry, being physical, can become little more than animal connection. This is fine for animals but dehumanizing for people. Where lust is mistaken for love, love doesn't have a chance.
With the denial of emotion comes the death of love, and the feeling partner dies a little every day within the prison of his or her unmet longings. Eventually either partner or both may become ill, withdraw, fight, look for love and affection elsewhere, or leave! And the nonfeeling partner wonders why!
To relate meaningfully, people need to relate heart to heart.
Unfortunately this is too true in too many relationships. Many of us especially we men, have no idea how to communicate heart to heart. Many of us were taught that feelings weren't important. We were taught that big men don't cry. So we became stoic, developed a false sense of masculinity, and became human doings rather than human beings!
And those of us, men and women, who grew up in dysfunctional families don't know how to relate intimately because as children we weren't allowed to trust, feel or talk intimately. We never learned to communicate openly and honestly. To survive we had to deny our feelings. However, to live fully as adults, we need to get back in touch with our emotions and learn how to communicate them creatively.
For many this can be like learning a whole new language which takes time and effort.
First. To start, examine the symptoms in your life. Fortunately, God is merciful. When our life is "out of tune" he gives us symptoms to show us that something is amiss and needs correction.
For instance, you may suffer continual physical symptoms. You may feel unfulfilled, or no longer feel close to your spouse and be lonely. You may argue a lot or withdraw and look to someone outside your marriage for affection. You may even be involved in an affair or fantasizing about one.
God is merciful. When our life is out of tune, he gives us symptoms.
There are endless symptoms that, if we will be honest, can show us that we have many repressed negative feelings that need to be resolved so we can feel and communicate our positive emotions.
Second. Realize that it takes considerable courage and honesty to acknowledge these feelings. Start practicing being honest about what you want. State clearly what that is and not what you think others want you to say. Then, little by little, start doing the same with what you are feeling.
Third. To bring back the wonder you had as a small child--one of life's richest emotions--take time to smell the roses. Plant a tree. Pick a flower, Take it to your loved one or give it to a friend. Write a poem. Listen to music that touches your heart. Draw or paint a pic-ture. Climb a mountain. Let your hair down. Do something a little crazy. Get out of your comfort zone. Have fun. Go see a funny movie. Laugh. Go see a sad movie. Cry.
Fourth. Slow down. Stop the mad world of busyness at least once a day to listen to your inner self, to read inspirational material such as the Psalms in the Bible and meditate on what you read.
Fifth. Take time to be with your spouse and children or close friends. Hug them often. Tell them that you love them. Take time to talk and even more time to listen to them. Encourage them to tell you what they are feeling. Listen with your heart. Give them your presence. And please, no advice!
Sixth. Join a good therapy, support, or twelve-step recovery group where it is safe to share your struggles and express your feelings. This is a great way to learn by others' example and by practicing yourself.
Seventh. If you feel closed down, you may need to get into counseling. Sharing feelings is something that is learned. If it wasn't learned in childhood, it needs to be learned now. We all need teachers for this.
Finally. Pray. Some years ago when my life was outwardly successful, inside I was feeling very empty. Because I had been hurt as a child I had built brick walls around my heart to stop feeling the pain. Unfortunately, this cut off my good feelings as well. This was why I felt so desolate inside. So I asked God to help me feel again and lead me to the help I needed. He did. However, getting through my brick walls was painful. But I have learned to feel again--and am much healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. God will do the same for you if you truly want him to and ask him.
Those who do not know
how to express their hurt
or own their anger
and share it creatively,
who hide their weakness
and cannot say, "I was wrong,"
nor weep with all their heart
and shed tears unashamedly,
do not know how to live or love
with all their hearts either.