I had an interesting conversation with my friend Dave last week. Someone we both care about had just received some bad news. I asked Dave how this friend and his wife were doing, and he said, "They're doing well, actually. They're both really in touch with their emotions, and I think that helps them process everything coming at them right now and stay present in a way that's helpful."
I was baffled by this response. You see, Dave is not a guy who throws around phrases like "staying present" easily, nor is he one to enthuse at great length about the importance of validating every feeling that wanders by during the course of the day. So the fact that he singled this out as a determinative factor for our friends' well being during this challenging time was provocative.
It made me wonder: Am I in touch with my emotions? Do I want to be? How do you even know? My emotions aren't located in some nicely designated spot where I can reach for them when I find myself with twenty free minutes and a box of Kleenex. I'm simply not that organized. They wander by, and I sort of acknowledge them or push them away--much like the email ads I get from various stores offering 20% off something I may or may not need--to be dealt with later or (more often) ignored and deleted. Now, I'm not completely shut down. If I hear the song "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," I can decide pretty quickly whether or not I should clap. But when I've gone through tough times, I've found that my feelings would lead me quickly down a pretty grim path if I followed them, so I mostly chose not to. I guess it's a survival instinct of some sort.
A singer I like wrote a blog post once, about not letting her emotions grab her by the tale and swing her around anymore, and that's kind of how I feel. I clap when I'm happy, and cry when I'm sad (and I've learned to hop on the treadmill when I'm angry or frustrated, as it's best to be away from all means of communication when that happens :) ) But I don't have an inner gauge recording my emotional temperature at any given moment; I just sort of live.
How about you? Are you in touch with your emotions? How does that work for you?