Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Breaking the Code of Human Drama

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” ~ James Earl Jones

Mostly anyone who’s been around small children for any length of time has had the opportunity to see just how frustrated they become when they can’t properly express what they are trying to convey – they give in to anger and often lash out at the nearest target, or they become aloof and standoffish. Once their communication skills improve with age, their anti-social behaviors become more manageable.

A couple of days ago, one poster mentioned the fact that her father had not connected much with her and her siblings during her childhood, and for years the children had believed that their father didn’t love them. In reality, their father had cared for them deeply, but he simply didn’t know how to express his feelings.

Externalizing emotions is a learned process, as much as anything else. If one is raised in a home in which emotions are constantly guarded, they never really learn how to manage their own – they will either keep their own feelings on lock-down or they will explode in the opposite direction and allow their emotions to run out of control.

The same concept applies to a vast variety of emotions, and it is quite interesting how a display of certain responses is often the key to understanding the triggers behind one’s behavior. For example, if someone was often rebuked for being “dramatic”, they might become aloof as a direct result of the gradual conditioning, but the flair for drama will surface in different ways, such as being frequently ill or victimized somehow.

Expressing emotions has often been associated with being “weak”, and we are taught since early age that the best way to deal with negative emotions is to repress them before they take over our rational thinking. While keeping emotions in check - at a time when the free expression of them would be equal to social suicide - is often necessary, those very same feelings should be analyzed at a later time when we can do so privately. Unresolved feelings don’t just disappear; rather, they morph and pop back up when we least expect them like a Jack-in-a-box, disguised in such a way that we no longer recognize them for what they are.

James Redgrave has done a wonderful job describing the different types of human drama, and how they relate to each other. For example, if dad was an intimidator you may act as a 'poor me' back. If mom was an interrogator, you are likely to be aloof to her. Rather than getting angry at people for their behavior, it is more useful to determine what is possibly causing them to act that way.

Just knowing that others often relate to us in certain ways because they are unable to classify and express their emotions should give us an edge in shifting our focus, and teach us that we can’t assume how another feels unless we can think with their heads and feel with their hearts.

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