Sunday, July 21, 2024 11:06

Remaining Single: The Choice to Feel and Be Real

The suicide of Robin Williams in August of 2014 got me thinking about how so many people choose to avoid, ignore, discount and dismiss their feelings. In this instance the death was not by overdose but rather by the actor’s own hand. I watched this actor’s career with fascination and admiration over decades and know my favorite role of his was one of the serious roles, though this actor was known for comedy genius.

Robin Williams had many acting credits to his name, but for me his best role was as the psychotherapist in the film “Good Will Hunting.” In that film, his character Sean is suffering the loss of his wife to cancer and is teaching at a community college when he is asked to treat Will Hunting played by Matt Damon. In my favorite scene, Sean and Will are sitting on a park bench outside and Sean tells Will that life is a collection of experiences and also of the feelings that go along with those experiences.

In my opinion, feelings are the essence of life. What is life in the day to day? What is any one life worth? If there is no connection to emotion that surrounds every experience we have, then we might as well be robots, moving through our days with the automation of the routine. Life is about routine, of course, and we have the patterns of routine that make up our days, weeks, months and years. And along the way we have the ‘big’ experiences – graduating from high school or college, buying a house, getting a job, getting married, having children, getting divorced, relocating, going on a vacation, traveling to a new place. For most of us, that’s as much as we want or hope for or aspire to or dream about. Some folks might have any of the experiences on the prior list and more. Olympic athletes or others who achieve fame on any level have an extra catalogue of life events to review.

At the end of the day, what is the common denominator that links all of these experiences together? The feelings that we feel as each of the days of our lives unfold. I am aware that I have feelings every minute of every day and they actually break down very simply. What are the driving feelings for me? There are basically five I connect with most frequently, with happy being the preferred one of the five. Along with happy , the other feelings I am challenged by are angry, sad, lonely and scared.

Who among us wouldn’t want to spend all of our time being happy, right? It’s the best feeling in the world and I connect to happy a great deal of the time. I’m happy being in my own home, especially when the windows are open and I can smell the fresh air on the breeze wafting in from outside. I am happy to live where the sun shines often. I am happy when I listen to live music, perhaps in the car or when I’m dancing. I feel happiness when I am on a hike, climbing up to somewhere high and once arriving there am rewarded by a beautiful and breathtaking view. I am happy when I ski down a smooth groomed cruising run, hearing the whoosh of air in my ears as I make my turns. I am happy when I am engaged in a stimulating conversation one on one or sometimes in a group setting. In so many instances the happy feelings are close to the surface in various aspects of my life.

It’s enough to say happiness is a goal to strive for, but along with happy I choose to accept the deep connection I have to the other four of angry, sad, lonely and scared. As a younger person I was very in touch with angry. I know some of this is my background – I come from a family where there were some raging people, people who couldn’t accept or more accurately process their own fear, which is what anger covers. This fear turned into anger punctuated my childhood and certainly spilled over into my own behavior as a younger person. I still have a tendency toward anger but whenever I remember that anger covers fear, I’m able to get to the deeper connection around fear and what that’s really about.

Regarding fear, one of my favorite slogans states that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. I know I get stuck on worrying about certain things that are fearful for me from time to time. One of my fears is that there is nobody who has my back, who will be in my corner, so to speak. This comes from a lifetime of experiences of having the rug pulled out from under me in emotional interpersonal relationships. It takes everything I have in my emotional strengths tool box sometimes to have the confidence that there will always be people in my life who care about and value me. On good days, I know I have the confidence to be on my own and be okay if there is nobody there. On not so good days, the feelings around fear spill over into sad and lonely.

I frequently state that lonely is not the same as alone. I can be alone and be perfectly content. I can be with others and be heartbreakingly lonely. Such a huge difference and yet so often misinterpreted by others. I know the difference all too well, and again some of the lonely feelings come from inside my own head. But I know when I feel lonely it’s coming from some circumstance in my life and as I get older I become more aware of the need to deal with that feeling and explore what circumstances are creating the lonely feelings, and to honor and validate the sadness that comes along with lonely.

When I feel my feelings and have the opportunity to share about them, I am able to honor the feelings as I said above. Honoring and validating feelings creates better self worth for me. With better self worth, I am able to go to happy more often. I am able to connect to what is good and valuable about me, and I’m able to enjoy more of the moments of my life. Sometimes it’s hard work, but ultimately in my opinion, this life is worth living.

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