Archive for September, 2019

To Feel, or Not to Feel? That is Not the Question

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9, 2019 by michaelcogdill

Someone I know and respect wants me to live more like the tin man.

He thinks I’ll be better off not just wearing an armor but being one. No heart? No worries. A heart is just chambers that hold old baggage, right?

He teaches people to shed their baggage — and all its old underwear of old feelings, and make a habit of not copping a feel of those feelings ever again. They just get in our way, he would say. They bind us up and tie us down on that mythic yellow brick road to riches and happiness, and fulfillment.

Detatch. Disconnect. Your life will soar!

On the one hand, I agree with him. A heart run rampant will run us way down into a mess. Taking things personally, getting our feelings hurt all over the place, is misery. Harvesting grievances and staying mired in old hurts is a fresh hell.

On the other hand, the tin man of Oz longed for the Eden of a heart. He wanted the paradise of feeling love and all that comes with it. When the mighty Oz proved himself just a little myth, the tin man discovered he’d had a heart all along, he just hadn’t set it loose to run.

Beginning to use his heart for what it’s for became his own happy ending.  AND a fresh start.

We don’t get to choose whether to feel or not. The question is — will we admit that to ourselves so we can feel, and do, well?

Will we discover the heart’s enormous power to forgive and let go the dark for us?

To my friend, I present those questions with an urging: shed the armor, and engage the whole heart. This is about what some current wise and intelligent people call vulnerability. A fairly big word. Strong as steel. One urging us not to live in the tin-can denial of our past, or how it feels. A word urging us to feel the happiness and liberty and meaning we can feel right now.

I’m going to mix in a metaphor here for a minute. That very admission shows I know better. But you’ll see why. You might just feel the reason. Good reason.

Emotions — and the events that cause them — can be a kitchen fire in your heart. Somebody set your heart’s stove on fire with shame or anger or dreadful abuse. Some moral crime against your heart is flared way on up.

You’re on fire, but almost nobody knows.

What is a boy or girl to do with a heart all lit up with kitchen fires of feelings that burn — and hurt — like hell?

I’ll tell you what. Lean into the fire. Admit it’s there. Your heart’s aflame, and not in a good way. Instead of the good kinda hot, that old shame, that disgrace lit by someone else who did or said that terrible thing that is not your fault is burning your heart to ashes. It is not heartwarming. It’s a FIRE.

Deal with it. Put it out!! Dare feel the heat and sling waters of forgiving who set it.

The fire will die and the heart will live.

Anger, hurt, sadness — they all simmer in the kitchen of everybody’s heart. Sometimes a heart needs help to get the fire out. I see it in the traumas I report in my career.

There is no shame in calling for HELP!

I’ll tell you what won’t help. Going out to sit on the front porch, in a suit of armor, pretending the kitchen’s not on fire.

A psychotherapist I know and respect calls that a no-brainier denial, and a dangerous kind. The kind that can burn down the whole house, heart and all.

I do not recommend this means of burning emotional baggage. Or its dirty underwear of old things that hurt.

A wise soul said the only way out of grief is through it. There is no going around grief or shame or humiliation or sadness or any of the tinderboxes that threaten to reduce us ashes of denial.

But when go fully through what feels bad — confessing that its there, sharing its heat with those who care for us (and I dare say love us) — something nearly miraculous happens. We begin to feel what is good. Happiness, joy — these come in. When the bad gets dealt with — the fire put out and the ashes let go — something good gets on that stove. The heart just gets warm. We — and others — can live in there. And live well.

When William Faulkner picked up the Nobel Prize, he vowed humankind will not just endure, humankind will prevail. This from the brilliant American writer who said all his work was about the human heart in conflict with itself.

Such a human heart is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? To feel the good with the bad, and let the good prevail?

Or to borrow from the Apostle Paul in that famous First Corinthians (you need not be a Christian to get this one) — “Love never fails.” It is patient. It is kind. It is what a heart is for.

My friend of the tin-man ways is a good man, well-meaning, seeking the ease and betterment of others. He is a man able to feel, deeply. I am witness. I believe he would feel better about things if he would just drop the armor I refuse to wear.

He’s got to be chaffing in that thing.