Nice to meet you, I’m Katarina. Cancer Sun, a.k.a. a Highly Emotional Person. Let’s talk about feelings shall we?
I am a highly emotional person. What does that mean? I have a butt-ton of feelings. Sometimes they feel like too many feelings. Have you ever felt this? Culturally, we’re taught to favour rational thinking over emotions reactivity as this is seen as a sign of self-control and discipline. A person who has too many emotions can’t be taken seriously and is irrational - how can they be trusted? And if we refer back to traditional spiritual traditions (see: Vedanta) where emotions are seen as an obstacle on the spiritual path, they are to be overcome and shushed like the naughty children they are. We need to do away with them ASAP so that we can sit quietly and become Enlightened. This leaves us feeling like we can’t trust ourselves if we become, God forbid, emotional.
In elementary school I was known as “the cryer”. “Oh God, is Katarina crying again?” *Eye roll* I cried all the time. But it wasn’t for nothing. I was bullied pretty badly for years and so I had a lot to cry about. (After years of therapy, I came to see that these were actually mutually-toxic relationships and that I bullied back just as much as I was bullied but that’s for another story.) Fast forward a decade later and I recall making a clear resolution never to cry again. And guess what? I didn’t! I was so good at not crying. I got so good that successfully I didn’t cry for two years. I became impenetrable.
As I grew farther and farther away from my emotions, they began to confuse and disturb me as I aged. I can remember standing in the kitchen with my roommates in Toronto cooking dinner and asking them what the point of emotions was. I longed to be the rational-thinking type who could make cold decisions without blinking an eye. Instead I had so many tangled emotions to contend with that I had no idea where to even begin; they just seemed to get in the way of the life I was trying to live.
I was doing my best to make my living situation in downtown Toronto work for me, while also trying to make my fancy-pants, skyscraper, power-point corporate job work, too. But the truth was that none of it was working and my anxiety and worry were sky-high. It felt like they were getting in the way of me following the path that I thought I was supposed to be living. You see, I went to a shiny business school where I was confidently told day-after-day that I would be the CEO of some multi-national company someday so I had to learn all these business skills so that I could lead thousands of people in our corporate mission. I didn’t really ask myself at the time if I even wanted that kind of a job description because hey, all my peers were going for it, so I figured that that’s what I wanted too, right? Plus the suit and shoes that came with the job seemed cute and expensive so that must be good. (Note: I was 19.) But once I was out there and doing the things that a person who is going to be an important CEO of a multi-billion dollar company should be doing, my body and mind were raising all-hell.
I had never been simultaneously depressed and anxious before but this was the Great Crash of my mental health. My roommate assumed I was being a bad friend — I was being a bad friend but not because I was a Bad Friend, it was because my whole life that I had built to that point was crumbling around me (though I didn’t know it at the time.) My eczema and constipation issues were brutal. I also had a candida over-growth so my diet was extremely limited and I was constantly bloated and beginning to loose weight fast. It took me about 3-days to poop anything out that I digested so my body felt constantly lethargic and full. I was literally carrying around so much shit. Anxiety and depression felt like enemies — “Why, oh, WHY wouldn’t they just GO. Away?!”
Well, dear friend. Those two mental states, Anxiety and Depression were both trying to wake me up to the fact that the life I was living wasn’t meant for me. It might have worked for some of my peers, but this was certainly not my path. I’ve ended up in a place where I work barefoot teaching yoga wearing stretchy clothes with no make up on. Meaning comes in such deeper more sustainable places now: human connection, loving my wife, joy in movement, peace in silence. It took a LOT of inner work to get to the place where my mind would quiet enough so that I could hear the longing of my SOUL to let me do the things that I wanted to do which bring me and others joy and peace.
So I would encourage you to see your difficult mental states, not as your biggest enemies, not the obstacles to freedom but as KEY gatekeepers on the path to discovering your true self. Your emotions are your BIGGEST teachers and they are here to try to communicate an essential message that only you can translate. Here are some great questions in trying to read the code language that your emotions will sometimes speak in:
What emotion am I feeling right now?
Where does this emotion come from in my body?
If this emotion were a friend, what is it trying to tell me?
Where/from whom did I learn to react in this way?
When was the first time that I experienced this emotion in my life? Is this situation in some way similar to that first experience?
Is this emotion related to something I’m experiencing in the present moment, or is it something old, from the past?
Is this emotion that is in my body MINE or is it someone else’s? What percentage of the emotion is mine and what percentage is someone else’s?
So friends, your emotions aren’t the problem. Your emotions are your teachers, agents for change and transformation. Let your emotions inform you, teach you and grow you. We’re here to let them flow through us, just as life flows through you, too. To experience emotions is a sign of being alive, not of failure. God bless emotions and the ability to relate to them wisely. Be strong on the spiritual path. It is for the warriors within us, not for the feign of heart.