Lesson For The Day: The Perks & Pains of “Not Having Feelings”
“At some point in life, I’d forgotten to feel the full spectrum of feelings”
How often have you and I heard the expression, “mind over matter?” In my experience, countless; said to me by family, peers, immediate supervisors and most especially myself. Showing emotions or vulnerabilities at home or at work is a shade unacceptable. You’re seen as fragile and weak, and to some degree in business settings, a liability.
Objective and pragmatic individuals are supposedly better decision makers and make better leaders. Naturally, I wanted to be like them. I want power and control over my own feelings, primarily because of the poor decisions made in my younger years and honestly, I’m tired of feeling. Tired of feeling too happy because it hurts hard when it fades, of feeling too sad because it’s exhausting, time-consuming and I’ve got better things to do than brood, and of feeling grief because the pain won’t bring back the departed.
At some point in life, I’d forgotten to feel the full spectrum of feelings. Okay, maybe not all because I’m still familiar with anger, but other Inside Out emotions, I might have ~temporarily~ lost access to. It’s like groping in the dark to find the light switch (a.k.a feelings), except you don’t find it so you stay and learn to live with the circumstances (a.k.a darkness). Some people might see it as an advantage, but I’m starting to worry that I can’t feel uninhibited joy or feel at all. So I turned to science (and maybe later to a professional) for some answers…
Alexithymia: Emotionally Blind
“Alexithymia is a personality construct characterized by the subclinical inability to identify and describe emotions experienced by one’s self or others. The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked [by] dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment and interpersonal relating.” Due to their condition, they are thought to have unempathetic and ineffective emotional responses. Though linked with mental health conditions such as depression, Alexithymia is not considered a mental health disorder and cannot be formally diagnosed. However, Medical News Today listed down symptoms that curious folks can use as a guide:
☑ Difficulties identifying feelings and emotions
☑ Problems distinguishing between emotions and bodily sensations that relate to those emotions
☑ Limited ability to communicate feelings to others
☑ Difficulties recognizing and responding to emotions in others, including tone of voice and facial expressions
☑ A lack of trusted source fantasies and imagination
☑ A logical and rigid thinking style that does not account for emotions
☑ Poor coping skills when it comes to dealing with stress
☑ Behaving less altruistically than others
☑ Appearing distant, rigid and humorless
☑ Poor life satisfaction
Just between you and me, I scored a five (5) and later learned that the condition is more common in men. So, I may or may not be emotionally blind.
Gotta Feel Pain
But as I searched further into the web and perused through—surprisingly—a business & economics book, I learned that real people suffer from real disorders, some of them life-threatening, like congenital insensitivity to pain and anhydrosis (CIPA). CIPA is “a rare hereditary disease that causes affected individuals to be unable to feel pain and unable to sweat.” They feel no physical pain that even when they break their ankle (like Ashlyn Blocker) or their pelvis while giving birth (like Karen Cann), they wouldn’t know it happened until they see signs of damage, it immobilizes them…or kills them.
Emotionally, pain and the full range of human emotions, good, bad, happy, sad, play an important role in human evolution. Our experiences, when we allow ourselves to feel them fully and without restraint, help us understand mistakes we’ve made and need to avoid so we don’t get stuck. Meanwhile our feelings, when processed and expressed the right way, teach us which actions and habits to adopt to heal.
Big words coming from someone who admittedly has difficulty assessing her own feelings, eh?
But if there’s anything I’ve learned writing this, it’s that it sounds like a superpower to not feel pain or have feelings in general. But if you and I couldn’t identify what we’re feeling when, how would we prevent and heal, learn and grow or survive life at all? I dislike it, too, but having emotions, no matter how overwhelming they are, is better than having none. As I’m learning myself and when managed well, feelings is an unpleasant necessity and perhaps, an even better antidote to the cure-all we know as time.
Inner art @miguelmarquezoutside and @werenotreallystrangers
Banner art Alexandra Lara