Emotions, A Journey and a Joke (sort of)

Two psychology doctoral candidates and a blogger were sitting at a table…yes that sounds like a set up to a joke; perhaps by the end of the post I will have one for you. It’s actually the setting where the prompt for this post emerged.

I often hear comments from other people that stick in my head and resonate with me. I will play it over and over while I think about all the ways it may fit in my life and the lives of others. Occasionally I will say something that sticks in my own head. I’ll be plagued with thoughts of “Why did I say that?” or “Did I really mean that the way it sounded?” or “Could I have said it better?” or, the codependents favorite, “I wonder how everyone else heard that?”

As to the last question, I can almost always be assured that everyone else present has confidently moved on with their lives and are not replaying random comments I made in a casual conversation. The other questions I will entertain, only to the extent that I can grow from them and get to know myself a little better.

Somewhere in the course of the discussion that night, I made the statement “…but you all are more emotinoally mature than I am.” I don’t even remember the exact context. What I can say is that I believed it when I said it, but I wasn’t sure why. So I did some reading.

Maturity, in a scientific sense is “reaching a point of complete growth.” Based on that definition, the idea of emotional maturity is somewhat miss leading. None of us will ever arrive at a state of complete growth in regards to how we experience and express emotions; we will always have room to grow some more. So to answer the “could I have said it better” question, perhaps “I am at a different place of emotional development that you” would have been more accurate. Granted, it doesn’t quit roll off the tongue at a dinner conversation as well, but none the less is a better reflection of my thoughts.

So why do I believe it? When the conversation happened I was in the midst of managing multiple crisis. As a defense mechanism, I had reverted to withholding emotions, not allowing myself to feel what I was feeling for fear of being unable to control my expression of those feelings or stand up under the pressure of them. Decades of untreated trauma had taught me well how to hold emotion in.

The difference that I was experiencing this time around is that I was holding those emotions consciously. I knew that I would need to deal with them. I also knew that I would have safe places and times to process the what I was feeling and how it impacted me where I would have compassionate accountability (such as around a dinner table with friends or with my therapist or with my support groups). I was eventually able to get those emotions out and on the table, and not only were they not damaging, but I was stronger for having experienced them.

While I see where I have some growing to do on the emotional front – getting to a point where I trust myself more completely with my emotions, I also see where I have grown. That’s why this is a journey – I get to celebrate as I look back and anticipate as I look forward. If that’s not winning I’m not sure what is.

OK, here’s what I came up with:

Two psychology doctoral candidates and a blogger were sitting at a table discussing their work:

Psych Doc to be 1: I’ve spent several years pouring over my literature research and developing a research model, hoping it will get approved.
Psych Doc to be 2: I’ve spent hundreds of hours analyzing and reanalyzing the stats from my research and hundreds of more hours writing a valuable interpretation of it, now I’m just hoping it might be published somewhere.
Blogger: I spent twenty minutes pecking out some random dribble on my laptop at Starbucks today. There may still be miss-spellings in it but, its now available for the entire world to see.

(OK, that’s not really a joke – it’s more a reflection of what’s wrong with our culture and how I’m contributing to it. Ouch!)

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