Feelings can be scary. Intense emotions, like rage or grief, can feel overwhelming or out of of our control. But if we can step back from our experience and look more closely at what we feel, we find that other, more tender emotions lie beneath that intensity, emotions that can teach us more about ourselves and even allow us to connect more authentically with others.
Under the Cover of Darkness
Anger, for example, is a secondary emotion; that is, its appearance masks more vulnerable feelings like fear and hurt. When we have been mistreated, we may feel more powerful tapping into our anger at the slight than if we allow ourselves to feel the pain of our hurt or disappointment. I’ve often seen clients keep their partners at a distance with bluster and rages, only to dig deeper to discover that the explosive partner is terrified of being hurt, and acts out in order to feel safe from the perceived threat of being abandoned. Uncovering our vulnerabilities is courageous work; to allow someone else access to our hurt, fear and insecurity can feel like we are standing naked in a snowstorm. But the truth about our most vulnerable feelings is that they are universal — all humans have felt them. Some of us are better skilled at burying our softness, but only when we bring these emotions and yearnings into the light, and toward each other, can we be fully seen and accepted. Our shared hurt and fear, our mirrored sadness and despair, can be bridges that bring us closer together, not keep us apart. The next time you feel enraged at a situation or person, peek beneath the anger. The fear, grief or shame you see there is an opportunity to know yourself more honestly, to accept your vulnerability as gratefully as your strength, and to offer yourself with more truth and wholeness to someone else.