Everything makes me feel too much.
I’m the weirdo crying during the Star Spangled banner when they play it at high school football games. It’s not that I’m so patriotic—I’m thinking about all the people who suffered and died to help create this nation.
I get so choked up when I see another headline of another senseless shooting in Chicago that I have to hold a wad napkins when I read the news so my tears don’t smear the paper.
And don’t get me started on those abused animal commercials or any TV show or movie with any kind of violence in it.
It’s not just the negative stuff, either. My dogs pressing their beautiful faces into my knees, my son as he cracks a smile he was trying really hard to stave off, the nice old man who could barely walk but insisted on holding the door open for me at Trader Joe’s anyway—fuggedaboutit– I’m a mess!
Every observation and interaction affects me intensely.
People like this—like me—who often find themselves over-feeling to the point of extreme discomfort, tend to create protective barriers. Some are reasonable; refusing to watch cinematic violence for example, but some are counterproductive in that they keep the scary emotions out, but they limit our ability to connect to others as well.
A few good examples of these barriers include isolating oneself, using sarcasm to deflect sincere emotional response, and sudden disappearing acts—times when the situation or an interaction with someone else become so intolerable we simply disappear, either physically or deep inside ourselves.
Anyone who has been in a more than superficial relationship with me is familiar with all three. One minute I am a laughing caring friend/mother/partner and the next minute I am totally unreachable, facetious or irritated.
That spells good times for my loved ones. (See what I did there? Sarcasm 101.)
As I’ve grown older, though, and hopefully wiser, I’ve gotten better at finding some balance between self protection and vulnerability. As with all things in our emotional lives, it boils down to whether we are experiencing fear or love, and what we do about those feelings once we have identified them.
When I am overwhelmed by emotions I have learned to ask myself: is this emotion fear based or love based? (It’s usually fear based.) If it is based in fear, instead of shutting down, I try and figure out what I am afraid of. In doing so, the fear usually dissipates and I am able to become reasonably operational again.
This requires at least a few minutes of meditative alone time, and is not for the faint of heart, but becoming practiced in facing our fears can change our entire internal landscape. Just a baseline acknowledgment of them begins to shift things inside and allow growth and movement.
If the overwhelming emotions are based in love, that can—ironically—still spark fear in overly sensitive souls. We become afraid we will embarrass ourselves with maudlin behavior or that good feelings won’t be reciprocated. We are terrified, in short, that we are making ourselves too vulnerable.
I have learned, in those cases, to try and simply let go. I let the tears come, I reach out for hugs, I say the thing that is making my heart split wide open with joy. I do these things without reservation because no harm can come from them if they are sincere and given without expectation.
This old world is a frightening place with wolves around every corner, and it needs its lambs to be unapologetically sweet and nuzzly and jump with unfettered leaps of gladness in the spring.
A brave lamb is stronger than a frightened wolf, anyway, for she will be surrounded by a like minded herd of soft hearted creatures who will love her exactly as she was meant to be.
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Editor: Emily Bartran