Emotional Intensity: Good, Bad, and Narrow
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree and Rising.
Since when is emotional a bad word?
The ultra-stoic Big Daddy of my career field used to call me “emotional” when he’d read an analytical report from me that he didn’t like. In spite of that, if he needed someone to prepare a case that involved a ton of analysis, strategy, and persuasion, I got called first. In that case, I wasn’t “emotional” but “passionate.” I’m told I’ve written some of the best cases he’s ever seen and most of them won out among the decision-makers. Then again, in my career field, the most passion most people muster is a good action verb expletive that can’t be sustained for 30 pages.
“Emotional” is one of those terms that women get head-patted with. A lot. It tends to discount all logic that’s simultaneously employed. Usually, I take it as a clue that I’m right, as in, a guy who says, “Never mind that I’m a complete ass and I’ve just violated the code of ethics in 50 ways, but because you actually raised your voice at me when you asked if I wanted to go to jail, you must be PMSing.” Yep. Diversionary tactic. Such stupidity no longer causes me to either drop the argument or become truly emotional over the “insult” and in fact, I’ll now call the guy down on it for what it is.
I’ve decided I like my emotions just fine. To most people, those who don’t read my inner thoughts at least, I’m viewed as very calm, rationale, and analytical. Never mind the occasional internal turbulence. And just because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean I expect anyone else to do anything about it. They’re my emotions and I’ll deal with them.
One of the best insights I’ve had regarding my emotions came at the end of my marriage. I make no secret of the fact that I spent several months on anti-depressants and sleeping pills to get through the most jagged edges of the breakup of a decades-long relationship. I took myself off of them against doctor’s orders because they made me too compliant and without the force of my emotions, I could not take action in directing my life and lost my creative drives. It was the right thing for me to do at the time because I needed the reprieve from such low feelings for so long, but it’s not anything I can flourish with.
During that time, my ex and I discovered something valuable—to me, at least. His emotions always fluctuated within a narrow band whereas mine was a very wide band. I could, when “surfing” as my divorce counselor called it, ride a very moderately upbeat wave and still be higher than his highest high. When he sank to the depths, by comparison, I still had a lot deeper to go emotionally before hitting rock-bottom but my rock-bottom was incredibly intense.
As an empath, I could also sense his emotions, which became an overlay meshing with my own. But it was valuable to me to understand this about the way other people experience their emotional nature or lack of one. I’ve since talked with others about this and found that among people who consider me too emotional, they’re either terrified of their own intense emotions or their emotions operate within a very narrow band so that they don’t understand the fluctuations at all.
What I discovered while on anti-depressants was that my band of emotions narrowed to very thin. No wonderful highs, no dips into hell, just everything muted and pastel. Like taking a shower with a raincoat on. Feeling the pressure of the emotions but never the sensation.
I found it very sad that the way so many people experience their feelings is the same as I experienced them on anti-depressants but then, those are the same people who would consider me too “sensitive” or “overly emotional.”