I have struggled in my life with the belief that there is something wrong with me because I feel things so strongly. I grew up in a family of extroverts who are sensates. Warm, funny, generous, fun-loving people who dress beautifully, create homes that are lovely, and surround themselves with a large number of friends. I have never been able to live up to my family’s standards. I have always been the quiet one, the shy one, the hard-working one. I have always been the overly sensitive one who insists upon talking about feelings.
So, while I love my family, I often come away from our encounters feeling empty and diminished; feeling like there is something wrong with me because I express my feelings. I say “I am feeling so sad because my kids are leaving my life”… and my family member says: “Well everyone feels that way. What makes you think it is worse for you?” It seems that somehow, in my family, we never learned how to share our feelings. We never learned why people share their feelings or how to respond when they do.
When I share my feelings, it is not because my feelings are unique; it is not because my circumstances are more extreme than those of others; and it is not because I want someone to fix my life, or me, or my circumstances. I share my feelings to have them heard; to have my pain or fear acknowledged; to help me understand what I am feeling and why I am feeling it; to have another person respond with compassion, to say with meaning, “I know what you mean; I have felt that too” or “I can see why that is difficult for you” or “That sounds scarey”. That is what I want; that is all that I want.
I think that is what we all want from each other. The knowledge that we are not alone in our pain, our grief, or our fear. It does not make the feelings disappear but it makes them more bearable. It makes us feel less alone in our lives. It helps us to feel connected to others. It helps us to know that there is not something wrong with us; that pain, grief and fear are part of life, just like love, joy and exaltation.
As I get older, I feel more at home with my Self. I am coming to understand that I am different than my family. I have come to see that my life is full and rich in its own way. There are fewer people, events and places in my life, but there are more acknowledged feelings, more quiet moments, and a greater examination of life. I am starting to believe that there is not something wrong with me; that there may actually be something right with me; that maybe my need to talk about and acknowledge feelings is a blessing. I am beginning to believe that listening to and acknowledging each other’s feelings is the source of all healing.