My lack of emotions destroyed my life
Ouch! Ow! Ouch! Most of us know that feeling of instant pain when we stub a toe or bang some part of our body hard against something we shouldn’t have. Consequently, during that period of cursing and rubbing the offending spot, you’ve probably felt envy for people who can’t feel any physical pain at all. Wouldn’t that be great if it was like that for us; to feel no pain? Or would it be? We certainly need to feel the pain to alert us as a warning when something is going to be detrimental to our well being. So, we need it in our lives to enable us to survive.
Pain manifests itself in two forms; physical and emotional
Physical pain will usually subside over a short period of time. However, emotional pain, caused by mental anguish, can last for years, or in some cases a lifetime. You simply cannot take a painkiller to ease emotional pain or to make it go away. Therefore, it would be understandable for people, in those circumstances, to wish indeed they felt no emotion at all. No emotion; no pain! But is it even possible? To feel no emotion?
For some of us, life teaches us just that; to be emotionless
While it is virtually impossible to exist without feeling emotion, it IS possible to blank out the emotions that hurt us the most. That being said, let’s look at my own circumstances and experiences.
My wife has (not in a harmful or destructive way) branded me as having a lack of emotions, or more to the point; positive ones. But what does that mean exactly? It got me thinking. Does it mean I have no emotional feelings at all? I can certainly feel emotions such as anger, of being ashamed, being shocked, my own misery, uncertainty, and a whole range of other negative emotions, of those I’m certain. But, during further conversations, she expanded on her theory, and it seems I do possess all of these negative emotions, which I express freely, but hardly a positive one. That started me thinking some more.
For the record, what I do readily admit to, is not having much patience toward anyone; including myself, as I generally do or say something foolish, selfish, rude, or just plain nasty. But, of them all, anger is the one emotion which manifests itself at the drop of a hat. Sadly and understandably it cost me two marriages.
My current wife, on the other hand, is a very sensitive and emotional woman with a heart as big as Europe which she wears on her sleeve. Her show of feelings and emotions is instantaneous, and therefore evident for all to see. I, on the other hand, am far less demonstrative and tend to keep my feelings suppressed, which leads me to slip into a state of depression every now and again. But all said and done; it still doesn’t mean I lack every emotion. I feel I do have a few positive ones; I’m just very careful to guard them. For example, I know I have good feelings when I see things in nature, go fishing, or tend to my garden. I get a great deal of pleasure when I grow seedlings and plant them in. So, what I have come to realise is, I’m capable of positive emotions; except when it comes to people!
I admit I do find it difficult to express any emotions, apart from anger
I also give the appearance of needing to be in control of everything around me, (as my wife often complains to me about!) but in reality, I feel this is far from the truth. It’s just that I have very little patience with the world around me, so I function better when my life is just so.
Another thing about me is, on the one hand, I rarely panic about a situation; I try to think things out before I act. On the other hand, I have destructive, knee-jerk reactions, which causes a small situation to escalate out of control. Then I beat myself up for having made something trivial into a full-blown, major problem when if I’d just walked away, it would have been the wiser option; but I’m stubborn!
So, how and when did I become this way?
When I was a kid, I was carefree and bright-eyed. So, why did I become so cynical about life? I feel I had good parents and grandparents who always did their best. I was born a year after WWII ended. We still had rationing, so life was quite hard for everyone. Both my parents were the children of coal miners, raised in the hardship of the Welsh valleys during the early years of the last century. They also managed to live through the austerity brought on by two long world wars and a depression. Times for both my paternal and maternal families were very difficult. But I feel that the hard and cold Victorian attitude probably saw most people through it. Consequently, children were taught that showing any emotion was a sign of weakness. You had to be strong; there was no place for sensitive feelings if you are to survive this world. My grandparents ruled with iron fists, and the children had better behave.
If children cried, for no apparent good reason to them, then someone was going to give them something to really cry about. No room for soft kids in this world. Discipline was the way, and that’s how it was.
If children were boisterous, they were told to sit and be quiet
If you didn’t, you felt the full force of a parent or teacher’s wrath. Then, at eighteen I joined the army and was off to see the world. Little did I know that during the three years I spent as a soldier, any remnant of the sensitive boy I had once been, was stripped away. We were being prepared to kill if necessary. Can’t be soft, that would never do!
Unfortunately, during my earliest years, the pessimistic, Victorian way of thinking was typical throughout the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties. Then having joined the army, I feel these things were collectively responsible for my hardened attitude towards most things in life. However, it was all quite typical of most local communities back then, so at no time did I see my behaviour, or that of others, as being the slightest bit wrong. It’s eye-opening now, all these years later, and with hindsight in abundance, to see the same traits as I have in both of my siblings. It is true that lessons learnt early in life, influence and shaped us for the rest of our days, and breaking that mould isn’t easy.
Now I am retired I have had the time to reflect on all these things, and I have found the answers as to why I’m the way I am. I certainly don’t possess anywhere near the amount of empathy that my wife does, and if I did I wouldn’t understand what to do with it anyway! Having said that, I know that having hardened my emotional side for all the reasons I set out, it doesn’t mean I have entirely lost my soft side. The more I have come to understand the source of my demise; it has helped me to make changes for the better.
Self-preservation is life’s safety harness
It provides a cocoon where everything is secure. I had taken a step back from life years ago and lived in my cocoon where I felt safe from a world of emotion I didn’t understand, and therefore couldn’t be part of. Then along came my wife and entered my cocoon, When my eyes got used to the light which flooded in, she opened those too. She explored with me a lot of things I’d chosen to forget. We literally dug up everything I’d buried, and performed autopsies on everything; dissecting every little detail. It certainly wasn’t easy to see all my misdemeanours laid before of me. There was so much to come face to face with about myself. But thankfully my wife had enough love to encourage both of us to get through the tough times. I faced the truth about my flawed character, and the destruction those flaws had caused to me and others in my life. It wasn’t pretty, to say the least. But I’m so glad I did it.
I’m still a work in progress, and I’ll probably never understand certain things the way my wife does regarding empathy, but I now understand why she has her (in my mind) unfathomable reactions to emotional situations. She still has a man who struggles with his feelings, which I know can be difficult for her, but she is loving the softer side within me, which is finally emerging.
The aim for me is to believe there indeed is a happy balance. I’m working on deleting the negatives I was programmed with as a child, and working on flourishing a positive new outlook. Perhaps this old dog CAN learn new tricks!