Portions of this installment of Semantics Station were inspired by this blog post.
Did you know that you have more than one body? There’s a physical body (the one we’re all conscious of), and then there’s an emotional body. They affect one another, whether we are aware of it or not. We are all aware of how our physical bodies work, which is that basically, we don’t think about it much unless it sends us a signal that something out of the ordinary is happening. When we’re hungry, it signals with a growl or a rumble from our stomachs, when we’re thirsty, our mouths get dry, when something is injured, the nerves of that area send pain signals to our brains, and when something feels good, they send pleasure signals. There’s a precise, specific indication system that is in place in order to maintain our awareness of our physical body and its needs.
The emotional body works in the same way. There is a specific indication system in place in order to maintain our awareness of our emotional body and its needs. That system is what we call our ’emotions’, and each emotion represents a specific need, wound, or pleasure that our emotional body has.
I don’t know how it is in the Eastern part of the world, but in the Western world, we are not taught to view our emotions as part of a ‘body’. We are taught that they are simply reactions, and often unwanted. We know all about the physical body. We know we have a nervous system, a respiratory system, a vascular system, a skeletal system… we know what each system does, and how they each work together to sustain our physical body, and how they affect one another, but no one teaches us that we even have an emotional body, much less what systems it may have, or how the system(s) work. Most of us are completely unaware that our emotions indicate anything other than a reaction to external stimuli.
Often, we treat our emotional bodies as though they are the ‘crazy’ parts of us. The lunatic twin we keep locked in the attic, because she’s an embarrassment. The part of us we muzzle, straight-jacket, and shove into the furthest, dustiest recesses of our awareness. Sometimes we visit her when we’re all alone, but we’re more likely to simply avoid being alone… we invite television into our awareness, or food, or people, or books- anything to avoid being left alone with her.
I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad about yourself. From an early age, most of us were taught that she was unwelcome, that she was something to be ashamed of.
“Stop that crying, or I’ll give you something to cry for!” translates to ‘That part of you is unacceptable to me, shut it away or I’ll punish you’.
“Stop being such a baby!” says ‘Your emotions are an inconvenience’.
“You better grow a thicker skin if you want to survive in the real world” is heard as ‘That part of you is going to make your life harder. If you don’t shut it away now, it’ll hurt you later’.
Women are at least expected to have this unwanted self. It often galls us, that we are seen as ‘too emotional’, but we’ve been trained to be galled about the expectation that we have emotions at all… usually we are left insisting that we are NOT being emotional, even if we clearly are, but at least we’re allowed a small amount of a full range of emotions. My heart breaks for the males of our society… they’re only allowed two. Love and anger, and those ONLY in socially acceptable amounts, at socially acceptable times.
So here we all are, walking around in our physical (sane) bodies, with our emotional bodies locked away in the attic of our awareness. Wound after wound is inflicted upon our twin, wounds which we ignore because to acknowledge the wound means one has to acknowledge the twin, and we learned a long time ago that it wasn’t allowed.
Occasionally, someone wanders where they shouldn’t, and they inadvertently let her out, and all hell breaks loose. She runs around, screaming, throwing things, toppling furniture… all of her glorious madness on display, and we are so ashamed. When we finally get her corralled back in the attic, we apologize profusely for her, and our embarrassment is often so great, we can’t even look that person in the eye.
I know you know what I mean, because I know that you know that feeling you have inside when you see someone else’s emotional body escape its confines. It’s why we rush to comfort (or avoid) the grieving. It’s why we mock millennials and their ‘safe spaces’. It’s why we tell our little boys to ‘toughen up’ and our little girls not to be ‘so emotional’.
And we have no clue what we’re doing. We think we’re being ‘helpful’.
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” a lot when people ask you how you feel about something, it might be time to plan a trip up to the attic and see what’s hiding up there. We are vivacious, emotional creatures, we DO know, and we DO care… but we’ve locked the part of ourselves that knows, the part that cares, away so tightly that we can no longer hear her cries. I’ve said this before… the only way to stop exhaling is to stop inhaling too. Joy is meaningless without sorrow. Laughter is meaningless without tears. All of our emotions, good and bad, come from this part of us. If you find yourself wondering why you often feel blank… empty and apathetic… ask yourself if you’ve been convinced to lock away your emotional body.
It’s becoming more common to hear the term ‘inner child’, and that’s basically what I’m referring to when I say ’emotional body’, but don’t be fooled. She’s no child. She’s child-ish, because she bears all the wounds and scars you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) deal with, but she has the full cunning and awareness that you do. Remember, she’s been hatching escape plans, dodging blows, and clamoring for freedom while you’ve been studying, dating, and focusing on finding a job.
If we don’t begin to get to know her, to educate her, teach her some manners, heal her wounds… to welcome her back into the family fold… we will never be whole. There will always be a part of us locked away, crying, battered, and broken. She’s not something to be ashamed of. She is something to be cherished. She’s the vibrant, loving, feeling part of you that knows the way to your true bliss.