Feelings and Emotions: The Essay, Part Four, Appropriate Expression

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This is the last part of my essay on Feelings and Emotions. (Click here for Part One) I have taken my time in writing it, gathering all my thoughts together, because I find this the most challenging.  I am going to be speaking about “expression,” ways to efficiently express feelings and reduce the amount of held-in or “stuffed” energy.  Lack of emotional expression, I believe, causes huge confusions in relationships and will shorten your life.  But, incorrect expression causes lots and lots of trouble, too. 


My goal, then, is to focus on what I call “Appropriate Expression,” a term I borrowed from John Lee.  Many cultures have strong rules about the “correct” way to express or hold-in emotions.  What I am going to write may seem to go against many of those rules, may seem critical of them.  Because I love diversity and value autonomy, I am not setting myself up in that judgmental position.  I simply want to share what I have learned and what I believe.  Read on.

Note: As with many of my papers, I am going to write this online, piece by piece.  And so for those of you who are eager, this is an opportunity to practice patience.  Enjoy. The following is the outline.

FeelingOutline


Safety

The primary rule of living with others is to “maintain safety for all people present.”  I define Safety in my paper on the Lizard, and in my whole collection of papers on the topic.  What I think is pertinent here is that the rules of Safety surround and infuse how we go about expressing the emotions that move in our bodies and that influence our thinking. 

Two emotions (Anger and Fear) are the methods that our Safety mechanism uses to express itself.  The Lizard “talks” primarily via adrenaline and nor-epinephrine.  Since our Lizard always wants to be “in control” of its survival, these two emotions tend to cause us to act super-controlling rather than take us “out of control.”  An angry and/or fearful person is often remarkably accurate in their expression.   (Remember that most people who feel anger, simultaneously are under the influence of fear.) 

And so, I often suggest to people that they will probably safely drive a car when angry or scared, but I almost order them to not drive a car when crying or having high pleasure / sex.  The emotions of Grief and Joy tend to make us quite dysfunctional and we’ll easily drive off a bridge – by accident.   Expressing Grief or Joy can involve clumsiness and accidents – maybe worse than driving drunk!  This idea may scare people.  

Another problem is that under the powerful influence of Fear and Anger our drive to be in a safe relationship (the need for Reliable Membership is a function of our mid-brain) is at least partially turned off.  What we do when angry and/or fearful may be “destructive” to a relationship – may seem remarkably self-centered.   This functional decrease-in-caring-about-others, empathy, will wear off when the anger and/or fear is handled well and the functions of the upper brain come back online.  

Expressing Anger often involves the movement of large muscle groups in our bodies: legs, arms, chest, etc.  This can easily cause physical damage that we have not planned for.  Because most of us don’t plan or train in expressing emotions, we often surprise/scare ourselves by punching holes in walls, hurting our hands, and wondering why we did that.  Of course this may scare others, too. 

Dramatic anger is often learned and used “to scare and intimidate people.”  This is the whole issue of bullying that I write of in my papers on Master/Slave and the Power of Passivity.  Little kids are taught, by their caretakers, to use angry expressions (temper tantrums or threats) to get what they want.  It is the responsibility of parents to prevent this teaching.  However, many people grow up to be adults and use anger to “get their way.”  For the sake of relationships this habit has to be stopped.

And finally, there is the flooding factor.  Most people don’t learn to express emotions until after they have a “large pile” of held-in emotions – until their “pot” is pretty darn full.  As they start to learn to safely express feelings, much more may “flood” out than they planned.  So much may come out that they may scare themselves.  And so there is a balance between a person’s competence in expressing and their fear of “going out of control,” which I think is really the fear of “letting out too much at this time,”   Remember that at least with anger, we are not “going out of control,” we are just no longer in letting the rules of others control us.

But there is another side.  Not expressing emotions is also scary.  People do not feel safe around people who inappropriately suppress their emotions.   Since emotions are always going on and are visible in physical reactions (eye movements, breathing, etc.) suppressing these emotions is often a kind of "passive lying".  And this is scary because there is no way of predicting what these people will do.  Safety requires predictive information.

(I am used to being around people who are “ready to blow their pots.”  The only reason I feel safe is because I have become trained in emotional expression. I can, and do, encourage safety, and I know that there are limits where I will call the police.  If people want to hit people or break other people’s property, they earn the police.  I teach and believe that.  The police, bless ‘em, are trained to deal with people who are in those situations.)

And so, for the sake of my, your, and everyone’s safety, I am giving the following warnings:

  • It is always better to express than to hold it back.
  • The goal of all expression is to achieve a sense of relief. “Aaaahhhh, that’s better.”
  • Any expression that threatens anyone in the area is, by definition, inappropriate. Learn to do better.
  • When learning to express, it is advisable to have a trained person around.  Their job is to regulate the “level” of your expression in order to keep the training safe for all – including you.   You can easily scare yourself!

General Principles

I think there are three reasons to learn to be comfortable with expressing emotions: a) to develop a calm and confident sense of integrity in yourself and others,  b) to complete emotionally charged experiences, and c) to develop a comfortable energy economy in your life.   

 a) Integrity

There is a story told me some years ago about computer scientists at MIT.  According to the story, they were attempting to produce a computer that would mimic the responses of a human.  I think this was part of the Artificial Intelligence effort of the past  The fun part of this story was that they gave up.  What they discovered was that no matter what they programmed, the computer would be non-human.  Oh, it would be “rational” or whatever you want to call it.  But it would not be human.  The problem, so the story told, was in the programmers inability to introduce “feelings” or “emotions” into the computer.  No algorithm or set of logic would do.  Humans, the programmers  found, were thinking machines driven my emotions in a way too complex to program.  (Anyone who knows the real story, someone part of the project, could tell me their version.  I like mine.)

It seems to me that as a culture we have spent the past 60 years or so recovering from the ideas of rationality that were so popular.  Emotions seemed in disfavor. 

My parents believed that “emotions get in the way.”  My dad, a pediatrician, often told me of the “problems of emotions.”   I recall as a kid coming home.  He would ask how my day was.  I would start to tell him.  He would listen quietly until I said something that he thought needed “parental correcting.”  I would get upset.  He would turn to my mom and say the familiar phrase, “He’s getting tired.  Better send him to bed.”  And I would feel slammed, betrayed, rejected and abandoned – in the blink of an eye.  They would only notice that I was “getting emotional.”  I was not taught to recognize the language of emotions, their place in life.  I was often very confused.

When I was graduating from college (Math and Physics), I hit on the idea of getting an advanced degree in Counseling, since I had developed a deep interest in psychology.  I went to the head of the graduate program and asked his advice.  Dr. Gordon Simpson listened quietly.  Then he asked me to describe a feeling.  I couldn’t.  He asked me to name a feeling.  I felt lost. He smiled, an kind of twisted smile I came to love, and said, “Hell, you are so lost you need this program!”  And I was in.  My graduate paper was on, you can guess, Anger and Emotions, a Resource Paper for Teachers (and me).

It was Dr. Gordon Simpson who started me on the way by giving me that chart I use in the first article on feelings.  

I was to learn that emotions seamlessly integrate into the life of everyone, whether we know how or not.  If I am going to understand myself, part of what is going on (WIGO) in me has to be about the emotions, the chemicals, that are flowing and bathing my nervous system and body. 

I recall a study told me from Stanford University Research Hospital about how our memories change all the time depending on what emotions we are feeling.  If you get angry, you have anger-supporting or blame-supporting memories available to you.  If you get cheerful, you have joy-supporting memories to think of. 

I use the word “seamless” integration between thoughts and feelings as I really have come to see that we are never “not emotional.”  Yet everywhere, in common language, we are taught to act as if emotions are separate. 

“Stop feeling that way,” we are told, as if we had a switch somewhere on our body to turn feelings on and off.  As a kid I actually looked for such switches, and to this day is someone tells me not to have a feeling, which I am having, I reach up to my chest, flick an imaginary switch, make a clicking sound with my mouth, and thank them for the (useless) advice.

“You have no reason to feel that way,” we are told, as if others could possibly come close to understanding why we feel the way WE DO.

Or how about the confusion brought on by the common phrases “feel that” or “feel like.”  Here are perfectly good thoughts masquarading as feelings and often causing feelings to be unmentioned.  Both Sandra and I invite people to share their thinking and their feelings.  Both together are who you are as you move through life.  To leave out feelings is to routinely only look at part of the picture – like turning off the color in a color television.

Let me go back to one point, back to my parents.  Both were very polite, almost always.  And they kept their emotions “out of the picture.”  A kid, I have found, doesn’t understand or relate to words and sentences for a longtime.  Kids monitor expressions, tones of voices, movements of muscles – all the stuff of feelings and emotions.   And so, I learned as a kid to watch my father’s or mother’s eyes to tell if they were happy or sad or angry.  If happy, I would move closer. If sad, I might sit still.  If angry, I would move away.  All of this without paying any attention to their words.  In fact, because they were polite, they often said things that “were not true.”  They would say nice things, when they were angry.   

Their words and their eyes were often contradictory.   I learned this, and it caused me much confusion.  For example, I learned to often ignore what people said and preferred to “figure them out” based on their actions.  I had become used to incongruent people – to liars.  And I became one myself.  I learned to smile, smirk, when I got angry.  It took a lot of relationship and Orgone Therapy, to undo my early training.  I think you have to be cautious around people who do not show their feelings easily.

I have come to trust people who act congruently, who act angry when they say they are angry, who act sad when they say they are sad, who act scared when they say they are frightened, and who laugh when they feel it in their bellies.  Mammals, i.e. cats, dogs, horses, etc., seem to act emotionally congruent all the time. I think that is why I love them so much.  If they are pissed, they act that way.  If they are happy, they wag their tails or purr or whatever.  It is humans that have the capacity to be incongruent, by learning to dissemble, to fake it, to lie.

Another marvelous place where this seamless integration”  becomes important is in story telling and in reading matter, and books in general.  Years ago I hear Malidoma Some share that the people of his village were worried about him because he knew how to write.  Writing, it seems, was very dangerous in the view of the elders.  In reading one could get caught up in the “vortex” within a book or a paper and become lost.  The only safe communication was by word of mouth.  I gathered this was partially because of the wise awareness that “words” only have “meaning” in the mouth of the speaker.  Similarly, while I was learning to tell stories by such friends as Robert Bly, John Lee and Michael Meade I was reminded that all stories must be told from memory, so that the soul or spirit of the speaker would be wound back into the story.  Their point was that a written story has its core removed in process of publishing it.

So I came to realize that books are purely intellectual creations.  They do not include the emotions of the writer because the writer is no longer present.  The reader must either re-insert the emotional content, an act that is risky and more like that involved with poetry.   The dangerous mistake is that books foster non-existent reality, i.e. a reality that has no teller nor the emotions of the teller.  This is, I believe, one of the major contributors to the habits of MasterTalk.  People believe in a “version” of reality that is somehow devoid of observers – the third person omniscient this is called.   Then they use their delusional MasterTalk in common conversation to the detriment of the glory of coming together and sharing – dialogue.     

By the way, I sometimes use this table to help people get into the habit of freely sharing and even scoring their emotions.  The simplest emotion for me is Like and Dislike scored from 10 to -10.  Then I invite people to add the other scores.  Example: -2 Like, 6 Fear, 4 Anger, 8 Grief, 0 Joy  or +8 Like, 0 Fear, 0 Anger, 4 Grief, 7 Joy.

Feeling Score

 

Feeling Score 1   Feeling Score 2

Watching the play of emotions in the faces of my clients as the learn to be “beautiful partners to each other” is a joy to me.  

So what is the difference between congruence and integrity?  Do you have integrity if you do not live comfortably with your emotions and those of others?   And besides, being emotionally alive, I find is so much more fun.

b) Complete the Emotion 

Besides the issue of integrity, there is another notion I really like about emotions.  I was first taught about this in my courses in counseling back in the early 70s.  The idea is that when we experience something, we often pick up a kind of “emotional charge” which we carry around until expressed, until completed. 

Let me put it in a story.  You are driving home alone and you witness an accident. You get home and want to “tell someone about it.”  If that person listens in an accepting way, with the tone of PreValidation and with Validation, you will have a sense of “ahhh, that feels better” and you will probably not have to tell anyone else with the same sense of urgency.  If that person is unskilled at making people feel heard and feel understood, then you will carry that “emotionally charged experience” around with you until you find someone who is skilled. 

My intial training as a counselor in 1971 was in learning how to “be a person who could complete emotions” for other people.   I think the idea was that people wander around with a growing pile of these "incomplete emotions” and that eventually the pile becomes so big that people start to be dysfunctional.  By “completing emotions” in our offices, we could help people reduce their piles to a level where they could handle it on their own.

It is amusing to me to realize that over the past 35 years, or so, I have been learning how to “complete the emotions” in people more easily, more completely, and to teach others how to do it, counselors or not.  I think a better and more accurate term than “complete the emotion” is Validate.

However, in summary I am clear that as we walk through life we pick up events in our memory that we carry around until we can put those events down.  Those events involve components that are cognitive (thoughts) and physical (emotions).  Unexpressed events become a psychological (thinking) burden, and affect (emotional) burden.  We seek “relief” which comes from “feeling understood” and from “being validated.”  And this “relief” occurs only if both the cognitive AND the affect are felt to be understood. 

The experience in my office is that when I validate a client’s old burdensome event by some phrase of mine, their body will jerk, their eyes fill with tears, and they will sigh.  I cannot see the “thinking relief”, though they can tell me of it.  I can see the emotional relief.  When I see it, “I count coup.” 

c) Emotional Economy

This is the biggest reason for learning to express emotions.   Basically I have come to see a kind of balance between a) situations that trigger emotions and b) the amount of emotional expression.   Holding back the expression of the energy of emotions can be done – at a cost, a cost of building up chronic muscular tension and of storing away unexpressed energy that just waits for the day to burst out.  Healthy expression of emotional energy keeps us in balance.  50 units in and 50 units out.  Normal children do this all the time. 

Unhealthy constriction or repression of emotional expression spells TROUBLE.  I can think, off the top of my head, of 5 troubles that are very visible in our culture.

1) Teasing: Habitual Sadism

As Sandra and I were learning about expressing emotions we ran into the problem of joking and teasing.  This behavior is so common.  It is modeled on television as a kind of humor.  My parents and her parents did it all time time. Our friends do it.  But stop for a moment and look at what it is.  A tease is a kind of practical joke or jab at someone.  It is based on a larger or smaller amount of “hurting” someone.  It is meant to be “humorous” and “innocent.”  Look a little closer.  It is a chance to hurt someone, laugh at their hurt, and get away with it.  Just look one step closer and you see that it is sadism.  The receiver of the jab has to remain on guard and perhaps tease back.  If you are a kid and it is your parents who do the teasing or mocking (lots of words for this common behavior), you probably can’t tease back until you get to be a teenager.  And then, look out!  Kids in school practice, I mean it, “practice” this all the time. 

Teasing, I’ve come to see, is a kind of warfare, at a subtle level.  I think of it as a bit like a football game, an open substitute for warfare, only you can “play” it anywhere with anyone.  And it is very common.

Now I love humor.  But what is this kind of humor – this sadism.   Looking closer at my parents, I realized that they were people who were usually very proper and did not express emotions hardly at all.  My dad could be madder than a hatter and smile.  His teasing would increase when his eyes looked mad – despite the smile.  Ah hah, I said, teasing is driven by held anger that is leaking in the teasing. 

Later, after Sandra and I had pretty well removed teasing from our lives, I noted that people’s teasing increased as they became more frustrated.  The unexpressed anger would push more and more teasing to the surface.  I could find this in myself.  I might “leak” some teasing at someone if I were a “bit uptight” about something. 

Teasing has become a specific clue to watch for in ourselves and in others.  It seems a good clue to a build up of unexpressed anger and to be easily relieved by healthy expression of the anger.  And I am used to meeting people who are in Vintage Love who avoid all kinds of teasing but who are very playful.  

2) Explosions: Vesuvius

Ok, here’s another idea.  There are a whole bunch of people who are normally “quiet” until they reach some limit and then they just blow.  These explosive people are often trouble, cuz the blow-up is hard to predictable and is often very noisy. 

I often see these people in dometic violence situations.  They normally don’t get “angry.”  Explosive anger is atonic for them; that is, it is not their style.  Usually provoking and poking is the style of their partner.   So their partner pokes and pokes until some limit is reached in the violence-avoidant person and then they “blow.”   Everyone looks at them as the problem, while their partner seems so “innocent.”  Remember in our culture in general, physical expression of anger (or grief, for that matter) are either frowned on or actually punished.  Verbal forms of expressing anger are sometimes even encouraged. 

And lots of people, carrying a whole load of their own unexpressed energy, do love taunting those who seem to hold it in.  I am reminded of Mr. Spock on StarTrek and how people laughed at trying to get him to show emotions.  

I think of these people as if they were volcanoes in whom the lava rises and falls depending on how life is going on.  At some point, the lava gets high enough to crack out a wall of the volcano and the lava pours down on everyone around.

These are also those “people” who “out of the blue” explode and do a whole bunch of damage or even kill people.  I recall John Lee’s telling of a news article.  “The town was surprised yesterday when Jason Williams, a quiet mannered clerk at a bank, stopped a fella who had passed him on route 5, and beat the driver to death with a tire iron.  Jason was a well known deacon of our local church, a peaceful and kind father who spoke softly.  He had no record of any prior trouble.  Folks who know Jason are amazed. ‘Whatever got into Jason,’ one said!”  

Mind you, there is no phrase in our vocabulary that ticks me off as much as the one “out of the blue.”  No one ever does anything out of the blue.  They always make sense.  But their lives and their selves can end up pretty secret from others.  And so we see the source of all the explosions in our schools, in the work place, in our malls.  People just reach their limit and “go off.“  This is the problem behind the horror at Columbine School, at schools all over the country, people going “postal,” quiet people shooting people on our campuses, oh. hell you name it.  I don’t think we are even close to solving these incidents.  Certainly we are not anywhere near a solution, I believe, every time someone say, “He/she just exploded out of the blue.’

When I run into someone with an explosive tendency, I suggest they build a “float valve” into themselves.  Learn some signal that they are getting closer to “blowing” and stop at that point, take a break, and release some of the build up… effectively.

3) Blame

Now I come to two ugly things produced by holding in a person’s emotional energy.   Our culture sends the message that it is ok to get angry “if it is justified.”   As a result one of the first signs that a person is gonna let out some anger or violence is a peculiar behavior called blaming or “putting them in the wrong.”   I have found that usually the anger comes first, the blaming comes second, and the expression of anger comes third.

Back in the 70’s I was involve with studies of Anger and there was a concept called “guilt-free hostility object.”   This referred to someone or something that you could get angry at, could be hostile toward, without feeling any guilt.  I used to tell of the situation where late at night you are waiting for a bus.  It takes a long time to come on a dark rainy night.  Finally it comes and drives past you without picking you up.  Now imagine two different scenarios.  In one the bus driver may not have seen you.  In the other it is clear to you that the bus driver saw you, perhaps smirked at you, and drove on.  Think of the different feelings in your body in each situation. 

Listen to people talking and assessing blame on others.  Look at their posture, tone of voice, and level of energy.  See, they are already pissed and are just looking for an excuse to let it out. 

In order to make this easier for people, to let out “justified anger,” these people, I find, tend to gravitate toward beliefs that are black or white, right or wrong.  If your world is full of rules of right/wrong, it is much easier to “blame” people who differ from you and thus express anger at them.  Some perfectionists are masters at leaking their anger on to others.  They also tend to be people who do not maintain the balance of anger and expression in their lives.

4) Easy to manipulate: Church and politicians, and the military

And now, let’s get worse.  If you are angry about a,b,c and I show you a person d, who deserves your anger (i.e. is a guilt-free hostility object), you will fall for expressing anger at that person.  I find this a completely disgusting tool in our culture, used by politicians, so-called religious leaders, etc.  I believe it to have been the main theme of radio talk shows for the past 15 years.  “Let me harness your unexpressed rage and focus it on the target I want you to go after.”  or “Let me harness your unexpressed frustration and focus it away from the targets I want you to not notice.”  

I first realized this in the 80s when I watched corporations shipping jobs for young men over seas.  Of course they did this for profit.  But it resulted in a whole lot of unemployed young men here at home.  Very frustrated, they looked for “enemies” to blame.   Rush Limbaugh and lots of others, funded by those very corporations, sent out the message “women’s lib is the problem, bad courts are the problem, liberals are the problem.”   Any message except …. obscene profit makers are the problem.  And this seemed to work.  I am not particularly pointing at either conservative or liberal talk show hosts.  I am specifically pointing at those who exploit people’s contained rage by giving people targets to focus their rage on.

And listen to what passes for political discourse.  Is it about issues and thoughtful appraisal of problems looking for solutions?  Hell no! It is all about blaming the other party.   (It is my dream that when the U.S. elects a president, he/she immediately is no longer in either party.  Cannot be.  He/she becomes the President of both parties and tends to veto any bill that does not have clear bi-partisan support, for that reason only.)

By the way, I think this is the primary tool of the military.  “Let’s get a bunch of people really pissed off, hold back their expression, and then focus their attention on ‘the enemy.’”  And don’t even let me get started on the religious use of this tool!  

5) Depression

Finally, unexpressed emotions seem to me the primary source of the trouble we have with depression.  I apologize to those drug companies who are hard at work helping us live without happiness, and to those doctors and psychiatrists who prescribe anti-depressants so that a person who is unhappy with their life and live with that unhappy life a bit more easily.  Nuff said.


General Rules for Expression 

Fear

The  simple answer is that in general Fear is not an emotion that benefits from expression.  Generally I find fear to be an implosive rather than explosive emotion.  That doesn’t mean that it cannot be expressed.  I think it means that Fear should be addressed and eliminated rather than expressed.  My whole paper on Safety and The Lizard is on this topic.  But for those interested in expression of fear, take a look at movies. 

Expressing usually involves opening the eyes wide, breathing rapidly, more and more deeply, and then yelling, screaming, with a wide open mouth.  It can help to hold your arms out in front of you as if you are warding off some attacker.  All screaming involves a bit of preparation for those around you – letting them know what you are doing.  This is particularly important as someone hearing a sudden and unexpected scream will kick into pretty major fear themselves.  And so, tell everyone first, breathe rapidly, open your eyes and mouth and yell. See if it helps.

Anger

Expressing anger is very, very important.  After you have established safety, here are the principles.

  • Expressing anger involves large muscle groups: arms, shoulders, legs, back.  The more muscles, the better, and so precautions are important.  However, anger is an “emotion of control,” and so giving yourself limits and instructions is fine and works. 
  • Muscles should be moved against resistance.  It is much better to hit a punching bag, a pillow, a bed, a cushion, that to just swing in the air.  I suggest that you either don’t break anything or break things that are cheap.  Never do undesireable damage.
  • Expressing anger involves repetition until a sense of completeness is reached.  “Ahhhh.  That’s enough!”  And so it can be a nice thing to learn to hit, punch, etc. until relief is achieved.  Practice will make perfect.
  • Expressing anger involves you lungs, and so you want to deeply breathe and open your throat.
  • Expressing anger involves your voice, and so you want to be able to yell or say words that symbolize and push the energy out of you.  I find often that words that have “k” or “p” in them help.   “Swear” words seem useful.  Part of your preparation is that anyone who listens does not pay attention to any meaning in these words.  They should be used only to move the energy out of your body.
  • Expressing anger finally involves your facial muscles.  I find that trying to look like a werewolf helps.  Enjoy your eye-teeth, your fangs.  Practice in a mirror.  Look awful!
  • You do not have to have anyone around to express your anger.  Sometimes it helps to have an observer.  If your observer is frightened, then you are doing it wrong.

I sometimes tell this story:  Grandpa walked into the kitchen in the evening. Grandma said something critical.  Grandpa felt the anger well up in him, he clicked his tongue, and said, “Ma, I’ll be back in a bit.”  He then went to the barn and split wood.  Boy, did he split wood.  He split wood until his body let him know he’d done enough.  He said, “Ah. That’s better.”  Then he walked into the house, washed his hands and face and said, “Say Ma, what’s for dinner.”  That was Grandpa’s way of respecting himself and his wife.

John Lee’s book and workshops on Facing the Fire are really helpful here.  If you need more help, professionals trained in “body therapy” can be useful and certainly any Orgone therapist or may trained in ways that follow teachings of Wm Reich MD should be useful.   

If in expressing anger, you cause trouble, make things worse, hurt yourself or others, then you are not doing what I suggest.  Period. 

Grief

It is very important to express grief easily and often.  Here are the principles:

  • If you leak tears from the corners of your eyes, that is about .05 percent efficient.   Not worth much.
  • If you leak tears from your eyes and they drip to your chin, that is about 2% efficient.  Better.
  • If you leak tears from your eyes and your nose starts to run at the same time, it may be messy but is about 10% efficient.
  • If you do all the above and moan in your throat, breathing out, that is about 30% efficient.  Each of us sound differently doing this.  It is kind of like a baby going “waaa”.   I suggest you get familiar with the sound and be proud of it.
  • If you do all the above, and moan, and your diaphragm starts to spasm, this is much much better and about 70% efficient.   This is the “boo-hoo-hoo” sound and is darn good.  
  • To be more efficient, you need help.  You see, grief is an “emotion of losing control.”  Therefore you have to arrange that someone else will take control while you let yourself be more efficient.   This comes in the form of somebody holding you or being physically with you while you cry hard.  I will speak later of The Holding Position and of the role of your helper.

If you are into efficiency, I find that a person can cry for about 15 minutes and then needs a break.  If you are into low efficiency, I find a person can cry repeatedly for hours and hours. 

One time I was in a group of people and started to cry – very low level crying.  Every time I tried to speak, I would start to cry.  This kept going on for probably four hours.  It scared me and the people around me.  The next day I was walking to work and it all started again.  I was scared and found the counseling department.  Good move.

I remember telling a guy in my office that efficient crying couldn’t go on very long.  He came in for an appointment the next week angry at me.  He had gotten into crying, went into a closet, sat on the floor and bawled his eyes out.  When he came out, tired but at least temporarily finished, it had taken 13 minutes.  He was angry at my accuracy.   

Remember, crying is about “adjusting to loss.”  A wonderful feature of expressing grief is that it is so abstract.  When you cry about subject/loss A, you are also crying about all other losses at the same time.  I suggest you build a “crying shelf,” kind of a list of passages in books, songs, stories, movies, etc, that will help you “get into it.”   Then if you believe you need to cry, but are hesitant, find a safe place, and get down one of your books, songs, etc. off your shelf and hold it.  For me the movies “Man of La Mancha” or “Robin and Marian”  will always do it.  Just thinking of them can be enough.  

Joy

For many people, Joy is tricky to express, cuz it is a) noisy and b) a loss of control. 

The two most obvious expressions of Joy that we see are in laughter and in orgasm.  If you do both well, things will be noisy. 

I think laughter is very good for health simply because as you are expressing Joy, some other emotions are also getting expressed and the  size of your Pot is being reduced.  I think it nice to have a “humor shelf,” songs, stories, comedians that will help you get “with it.”  George Carlin really works for me.  It doesn’t take long for me to laugh with complete abandon.

Also remember that with expressing joy you are losing control a bit.  That is, I think, why we make love holding onto each other while we fly into space.  

 


Comments

Feelings and Emotions: The Essay, Part Four, Appropriate Expression — 5 Comments

  1. Al,
    great read, thanks for posting. Have you read “The Voice of the Heart” by Chip Dodd? Similar principals expressed in both especially the correlation between fear and false anger. An instinctual fear response has been expressed as “flight, fight, or freeze” these behaviors seem to be correlated with some anger responses but I wonder if this is the manifestation of the learned fear response that shadows authentic anger.

  2. Dear Al, I think I’m confused about the efficiency of crying. Are you saying that in order for crying to be effective, you have to experience it for at least 15 minutes? Is your recommendation to cry for as long as possible, for it to be most effective?

    I have another concern that you might be able to help me with. I’m having trouble identifying a feeling I have.I’ve had it most my life. It’s in my diaphragm, or the pit of my stomach. It’s like my gut is being sucked up and inward. I think it’s associated with fear, but maybe it’s also grief. Its difficult to relax and I can’t eat. Right now, I’m fearing that my relationship with my girlfriend is ending. The feeling is tied to the thought of losing her. Do you think this is fear or grief? or a combination of both? I think the answer to my dilemma is to get out and excercise or express myself in some movement, but I was just wondering how it was categorized.

    • Dear Johnny,  Your first question is pretty easy to answer.   I will have to look at my article to see if I can explain it more easily. 

      Think of grieving as a process of pumping out a well that itself fills slowly.  If I have a very efficient pump, the well goes dry quickly.  If I have a small pump, it may take a lot longer.  The grieving process, as I understand and experience it,  is partially like this.   Just leaking one or more tears is a very small pump.  Now dripping tears down your chin is probably 40X faster, but still slow.   Getting your nose to run also is about 200X more powerful than before.  And so forth as I mention in the article.  Let's say I've got 1000 units to grieve.  The small pump means it takes a really long time.  The full bore grieving. The Holding Position, is probably the maximum size pump.  Get's out a lot of grief fast.  It can only work for about 15 minutes at a time, but can work many times a day or daily for weeks.  That 1000 units of grief may take 5 session of full bore grieving, while it make take 10 years of slight eye leaks.    Oh and in the meantime the well  is filling with new things to grieve about.    I wrote this bit to help people move toward efficient grieving, rather than bottling it up.  All the numbers are made up by me,  and this are just my best guesses.  There is not grieve-o-meter that I know of.   Hope this helps.

      I want to be reasonably careful about my response to your second concern.  My greatest concern is that you mix up expressing (Anger, Grief and Joy) with responding appropriately to Fear.  

      My first guess, as you describe it, is that your body, like mine, responds to fear by tightening up your diaphragm.  I am used to having a tightening there be sometimes my first signal that I am scared – that my Lizard is active.  It doesn't sound like grief, but it could be "fear of grieving" or "fear of loss."   The idea that you are fearing your relationship ending sounds right.  Being a profound Clinger myself, my Lizard jumps at the idea that Sandra is leaving.  I may not notice my "terror" until my stomach tightens.  I recall one of my teachers sharing that the first sign a baby is in fear is that their stomachs tighten.  Bummer.

      Exercise is good.  Paying attention to signs your Lizard is panicking and taking care of it are also good.  Expression is not much useful for Fear.  Fear is simply the tool of your Lizard to take care of you so that you don't die.  Reliable Membership is probably an important paper for you.  And the one on the Lizard.      

       

  3. Dear Friend,
    I am not clear what you want me to write more about, but assuming that you want more on this topic (Appropriate Expressions) I can share a little.
    I find this subject so important that I believe no paper, book or workshop could come close doing it justice – even 5% justice. I believe I am talking about learning to a) feel and appreciate all emotions so that life is a wonderful experience and at the same time b) managing their expression so as not to be destructive or dysfunctionally dysruptive.
    This is a topic for much personal, guided work for some of us. It is also a topic for our friends/partners to firmly help us put a lid on “over-expression.” I spent over a decade in my life learning appropriate expression using Orgone Therapy. Every minute of it, every dollar I spent on it was worth it. I also studied with John Lee, author of Facing the Fire and Flying Boy. I am sure there are many more books that are wondeful. Unfortunately there is also a lot of emotion-negative trash out there, too. Good luck.
    The topic can be looked at from many levels: personal, relationship, family, social, and even anthropologically. If you have a specific question, I'd love to hear it. Thanks for the encouragement.

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