I'm not sure if I've mentioned before that I have CPE supervision on Tuesdays. It's a time for me and Supa to talk about things that are going on within CPE and in my life. For the most part, supervision has been pretty good, but I've not really "opened up," as it were... To a certain degree, that changed this past Tuesday. Last Thursday, I was on call at night (as usual) and I got a call early Friday morning for a situation involving a young man who is just a year or so younger than I am. It was a difficult call, and after I finished with it, I sauntered into the Spiritual Care office at the hospital where I was. My home base is "East," but when we're on call, we cover both "East" and "West." This happened at "West." One of the staff chaplains saw me there again (I'd had a REALLY busy Thursday/Friday on call the week before) and she invited me in to her office to "debrief." During the course of our conversation, she told me that I should make sure to allow myself time and space to break down. I replied to her that I wish I could break down, but I'm not a breakdown person. She said, "You can learn." And so, that has been on my mind lately.
I have a difficult time showing "negative" emotions like sadness, anger, and fear. Even when I'm alone, I find it difficult (if not impossible) to react outwardly to these things. When I'm sad, I think I have a tendency to turn inward instead of crying or sobbing or something. The day I moved out here to "the Mothership," I was fine until my family said it was time for them to go. But, when they started hugging me goodbye, tears actually started coming out of my eyes, but I was so sad and afraid of being alone that tears were not cutting it. It was weird though, because I felt the need to actually sob, but instead, it came out as laughing. It was very bizarre, and it makes me think I broke my "cryer." I don't know.
Thinking about sadness, also makes me think about the last time I cried in public, which was in late November of 1999. And since then, people I love have died and other sad things have happened, but I don't cry in public. But, there is nothing wrong with crying. I don't get uncomfortable when other people cry around me. I actually wish I could cry sometimes, but something in me keeps me from it.
Sadness is not the only "negative" emotion I don't show. Anger is one I also have difficulty showing. I was angry (I don't know at what) when Ma had to go into the nursing home. But as I sat with that anger, instead of expressing it outwardly in any sort of action, I just sat there and rationalized myself away from doing anything. Lots of hot words and frustration were running through my mind, but I just sat on my bed and said, "Doing x activity will do nothing to better the situation, so just sit here and calm down."
Supa asked me during supervision to reflect upon what happens inside me when I experience sadness and anger and don't let them out. I said that I feel really tense, and I clench my jaw, and doing those things keeps me from crying. He told me that he has noticed that I seem tense, while at the same time, playful. He had never commented to me before that he saw me as tense. I think that my saying it gave him a sort of "permission" to tell me what he'd observed. Supa's a really probing questioner, but he himself says he is "too nice." I don't think of observations as mean though. Maybe I'll have to let him know that... He also asked me why I don't show emotion. I told him I'm not really sure, but that it might be a control issue. As I continue to reflect on this, I think even more that it IS a control issue. Things have happened in my life that I have tried to control/affect, but they came out quite different from what I tried to do. I think that my refusal to show outward emotion, even as almost everyone else around me does, is my way of being different, and exerting control over how others see me. In a world where I have little to no control, (they say control is an illusion, after all) I CAN outwardly act in a way that I can control.
The problem now, though, is that I can seem uncaring and callous in the face of sadness and despair. I care-I really, REALLY do, but it may not seem like it to observers. It's kind of odd because one member of my group wants to stop being "so" emotional, and I want to start being emotional... During our mid-term group evaluations, we had to write "sandwich" comments to our group. I tried to do it without coming off as a mean person, (some people didn't put any critique in there, so I still felt kinda mean) and for this person, I said, "Don't lose all of your emotionality. It's an asset." or something along those lines... So, I hope that person recognizes that emotions are important. Anyway, this has been a really long post, and I'm not so sure I got anywhere with it... Hopefully this reflection will spur further reflection.
As a final thought, I was talking to a seminary friend who was telling me about her CPE experience and how when these emotions come to us we need to be able to "name it and claim it." So, my assignment for myself is to be more cognizant of what my "sadness" or my "anger" is, and claim them for myself in order to hopefully be a more rounded person. Any thoughts?