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There is a whole universe of unexplored material we carry within us, made up of thoughts and emotions.
We prod the mind from an early age, voluntarily and consistently, to encourage the growth and evolution of our thinking. Anything emotional, however, usually emerges without guidance, spontaneously, and often clumsily.
As humans, our emotional intelligence lags far behind our command of rational thinking. It is enough to consider the time that an average human invests in academic education compared to the time dedicated to understanding and managing emotions, only to realise the enormous gap in our treatment of these equally fundamental domains.
Collectively, our level of emotional competence is the equivalent of illiteracy, which means that our life experience is ultimately restricted. Just like someone who cannot read, whole layers of meaning and potential are lost to us because we are not equipped with the key to access them.
In the absence of an emotional education, we resort to the arts, which become a vital avenue of expression for us, and we cling to language to try and capture the elusive soul. We don’t just enjoy works of art, music, or literature, we use them to tap into our emotionality, and we scan such material for clues that tell us what is normal and acceptable.
This is because, in most realities, there is no designated space for the exploration of the emotional dimension; it is a core life skill that we are supposed to pick up independently in our spare moments.
What is it about emotions that makes us fear direct contact with them?
Perhaps, it’s the fact that they’re unpredictable, and that they might lead us somewhere unsafe. Our inexperience with them makes us fear their intensity, and so we tone them down by applying filters. We have a need for shields and veils, for symbols and signifiers, because we don’t want to be overwhelmed, and we mistrust what is foreign to us.
Language itself serves to contain enormous, wild feelings into orderly lines, to make untameable sensations manageable. We give our feelings a name, and we liken them to someone else’s experience, to someone’s poem or song, distancing ourselves from the things we have not been taught to own. We express feelings approximatively, sometimes downplaying them, and we’re forced to reduce them to the closest label that language offers.
Alternatively, we escape from them altogether and drown ourselves in distractions.
In fact, we have built our entire existence around working hard to earn the time and means to distract ourselves or to experience life second-hand via entertainment. Everything from our work to the addictions that fill our leisure time could be seen as part of an elaborate system of avoidance.
Or, perhaps, it is the contrary: everything we do could be an attempt to find our feelings out there in the world, expressed in different forms and reflected back to us, validating our experience indirectly. But what if we faced our hamletic dilemmas face on and decided “to be?”
I have always been intrigued by the idea of candour, of sharing one’s truth, of peeling off layers of formality and reticence to uncover something raw within the heart that can speak directly to the rawest part in the heart of another.
Life as we’ve constructed it doesn’t usually allow for such openness. There is a tendency to skim through experiences without focus or intention. Even as we speak of spirituality, we are often dancing around concepts that we grasp intellectually but are far from embodying fully and truly. We still fear and deny anything that upsets the status quo, whether it be anger, confusion, despair, or, in some contexts, even joy, the first glimpses of enlightenment, or love itself.
For now, language and the arts are our most significant portals of expression.
Is mastering them, then, the key to conveying more accurately what lies within us? Or should we forgo the tools and look for ways to directly embed that heightened awareness and sensitivity into our daily actions and interactions? Could we express our personal truth with such fluency that our life itself becomes poetry, song, and colour-personified?
Perhaps, one day, we will be so practiced in channeling our emotions that we can let them flow the way an inspired singer can burst into song. Loudly and proudly enunciating our most intimate melody, we may find that such a way of life is more beautiful than anything art or language can describe.