Recently I watched a YouTube snippet of Dr. Brene Brown speaking at a TED Conference. She said a few things that resonated with me, besides how cool her name is. If you don’t know her, she is a researcher and a story-teller who studies issues like vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.
I’ll cut right to the chase, Brown says that you can’t selectively numb. When you numb yourself or repress an emotion, it impacts the whole system. I’m pretty sure she is right about this, which is a shame. Why can’t I just be open-hearted and loving without also being angry and cantankerous? It would be so much easier just to live in a bubble of the good stuff. But the truth is, I find people who have banished negative feelings and just float along in a fluffy cloud of happy really annoying. Particularly if it is an evangelical-religious or new age cloud of fluffy-happy.
No, life is messy. Very, very messy and you have to get your hands dirty to live it fully. So here is my dilemma; I am like many men; socialized to repress anger, shame, and fear. Stuffing these emotions into an over-full cerebral closet has become a reflex. Like blinking, something makes me angry it gets buried before I even have a chance to see if it is a real threat. How does one begin to turn off that switch? It’s like a fist that has been clenched so long that the muscle memory of how to relax is gone. I’m not saying that I am an emotional cripple, far from it. But as I get deeper into the work of being in the real world, I am aware of this huge internal vault of repressed emotions. Right now I do not have the key, nor am I willing to use a sledge hammer hard enough to penetrate much further than the Celtics last losing streak. I have to admit, back-to-back losses last month against the Clippers and Philadelphia cut deep.
I hope you all forgive me for the posts that are likely to follow. I’m going mining for deep down emotions. It’s slow going and I’ve got a hard head to crack.
Well worth the twenty minutes if you are interested in watching the whole thing.