As I’ve progressed further in my studies and training to become a therapist, I have become even more interested in the function, experience, and beauty of emotion. I love learning about attachment and bonding and how emotions exist in relationship. I am fascinated by how we learn to cope with, accept, and transform our emotional experiences. And don’t get me started on how much I enjoy discussing and thinking about the emotion wheel. The exploration of emotion is a key part of how I see myself working as a therapist in the future.
That being said, I have had to do (and continue to do) a lot of my own work to embrace the complexity of emotion. I believed for a long time that it was better to not show weakness (read: don’t cry and steer clear of real, raw vulnerability). I was recruited into society’s mentality that feelings are to be ignored – to be pushed through – so that we could focus on what really matters (productivity, staying busy, helping others). In fact, I was so good at pushing difficult emotions to the side that whenever I did have an “off day” people would approach me and assume something was MAJORLY wrong because I wasn’t my “happy self.” I had to learn that happiness is somewhat of a farce and can also function as a mask. I lived on the mantra, why be sad when you can be happy?
Granted, I am an optimist (and friendly as hell) so a positive disposition does come more naturally for me. AND! A part of living fully and embracing all that comes with the human experience is developing an awareness, a curiosity, and an acceptance to the array of ways we can feel on any given day: dejected, joyous, exuberant, depressed, hopeful, surprised, scared, passionate, inadequate, guilty, affectionate, peaceful, confused, excited….you get the idea.
When I sit with whatever emotion may visit me at any moment, I find that it feels like a dance. Usually, a pretty awkward one. I am afraid of what will happen when I let it in. It is scary to know yourself in this way. And yet, when I can acknowledge and remain welcome to these emotions, I feel more connected to myself and better able to articulate how I am experiencing the world. The inner part of me can match with the outer part of me.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked with my own therapist to take the time to sit with my emotion. To name it. To ask it questions. To see what message it is trying to say. More recently, this has translated into poetry. Chelsea shared with me about a writing project she did once – one where she used personification as a means to describe complex ideas. That, combined with the fact that I was using a lot of metaphors in my practice and training, led me to consider using emotion and figurative language together.
Using an emotion wheel, I made a list of all types of emotions. Then, every couple of days, I write a poem about how I have experienced or see that emotion. I do not know how I many poems I plan to write. The freedom to write and be creative is exactly that – letting the words and ideas fall onto the page. Writing poetry about emotion has been…fun. My imagination connects with my soul and it feels like I am speaking my true self.
So far, I’ve completed five poems: Worry, Playful, Lonely, Confidence, and Acceptance. I’ve included them below. I hope to post more in the future and continue the hard but important work of getting to know myself even better.