Saturday, February 1, 2014

Soul Spelunking

From what I observe, most people seem to house their unpleasant emotions in something like a well (the term "well of sadness" is a thing, right?). Some people's are shallow, which means their emotions tend to overflow easily, but at the same time they are never far from the surface and can be easily rescued if a flood occurs. Others are deep and have an easier time managing their demons but are in greater peril should they happen to fall in. A well adjusted person then would be someone whose well is juuuust right. They can use their little bucket to retrieve their emotions when they need to deal with them, but keep them tidily out of sight when they don't. Obviously, and I know I've said this before, this might be a completely false metaphor because I am not other people and I really cannot know how they experience their emotions. It sounds right though.

My unpleasant emotions are stored in what I can only describe as a network of subterranean caves. I can access them but only through a very narrow opening of treacherous descent. I know there are others like me but if I've met them I haven't been able to get close enough to find out, as will make sense if you continue reading. Most of the time I forget that sadness is even a thing. I'm not ignoring it or avoiding it, I really just don't have much access to my sadness.  Furthermore I don't intentionally bury my emotions; they just kind of evaporate on contact. But the thing about evaporation is that it's going to come back eventually as rain. One way or another it's all ending up in the cave.

I have plenty of sadness stored up, as should everyone who isn't a sociopath. Consciousness is a bitch and life is pretty tragic when you think about it too long. On the plus side I tend to be fairly even tempered and not prone to making irrational decisions because I am upset*. The down side is that it does make it difficult for me to empathize. I have to really TRY to remember what feeling sad is when I am trying to relate to someone in order to help them. It doesn't come very naturally.
(Image courtesy of I did not get permission to use this. If I get arrested I promise to blog about it)

That is why, in my quest to grow as a human person and make better connections to the other human people around me, I have recently tried to make a more concerted effort to access my negative emotions more frequently so I can better understand the complex network of humanity in which I must make do. I don't feel my emotions in an overwhelming way, so sometimes I don't have to deal with them fully when they first crop up. It's been very helpful to me to go back and try to reconcile that which I initially reacted to by saying "I DON'T WANT TO BE SAD SO I JUST WON'T, DAMMIT." I know that approach sounds really unhealthy but you have to believe me when I say that I am actually capable of simply deciding not to feel things that I don't want to feel…at the time. I have an understanding with myself that I will deal with it at a later date.

When I set aside time to get down there and sort out my sadness (which is usually when I get a certain funny feeling in my chest which hopefully isn't actually just an arrhythmia), I imagine myself down in the caves with the stalagmites picking up ugly rock blobs of sadness and asking myself "Why was this upsetting? Why was this upsetting really?". I gather as much as I can hold and resurface, hopefully armed with a little more wisdom.

Since moving to New York, where I've had to pretty much rebuild my social network from scratch, I've found that I tend to be drawn to shallow-well people (not to be confused with simply shallow people). I love people who barely have their emotions under control and want to tell me all about every emotion they have in real time. They are my favorite. Maybe I'm hoping that if other people hurl enough of themselves at me my cave's opening (ew. sorry) it might take a good enough hit to widen up a bit (oh god it's getting worse), so I'll be able to haul a bigger load through it (ok now I'm doing it on purpose). This might be the most ill-conceived metaphor in the history of psychological self-diagnosis, but I'm actually quite fond of it. Now instead of "sulking" I can tell people I'm "spelunking".

*none of this applies to my first two years of college because I basically only had two speeds: clammed up introvert and sloshy drunk.

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