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Laughter and Tears

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

There’s often a thin distinction for me between laughter and tears. Folk singer Joni Mitchell pined years ago that “laughin’ and crying/You know it’s the same release” (People’s Parties, from the album Court and Spark, 1974). I’ve thought about that lyric many times. I’ve remembered it especially in moments of laughter that seemed to strike something deep in me, some sad feeling that could just as easily have come out as tears as easily as laughter. Emotions are funny things sometimes.

As an abuse survivor I often experience confusion around my emotions. I question myself when I feel something deeply and I tend to censure myself. As a child I had to “stuff” my emotions down inside because they weren’t acceptable in our family system. We didn’t deal well with anger or with any topic that was “embarrassing”. In this way I learned that my feelings were suspect, at best, and unacceptable, at worst. I grew up distrusting my emotions and never knowing what to do with them.

As I have matured in my recovery I have come to see my emotions as a gift. I have them for a reason and they point me to greater realities in life as I come to understand them. Someone has said that, “emotions are terrific servants and terrible masters”. This is true for everyone, but how much more for those of us who have been violated to the point of rejecting our healthy feelings and who have been forced to bury them deep inside of our shattered hearts.


Roger Mann said...

OH boy can I relate to this. Strong emotions at home were not tolerated. "Settle down" was always the stern rebuke I would get. Because of the abuse and because it was my dad that left some very confusing emotional reactions in me. I found I could not trust my emotions so I too buried them deep.

When Star Trek came out I watched ever episode for my hero Mr. Spock. He could control his emotions. I so wanted to be able to do that. No emotions just logic and a life lived from the head not the heart which was so unpredictable.

But a human cannot live like that. God gave us emotions and while I got that mine seemed to want to control me. I would want to cry at the weirdest moments. Things would make me laugh that others would not find funny. I could not hide my awkwardness in social situations because of my unpredictable emotional makeup.

When I discovered other abuse survivors and began comparing symptoms I was astonished to find so many others for whom Spock was a character they so identified with also. His emotions also were detrimental to his psychological health and even physical health. We all talked about how uncomfortable we felt with our emotions.

After years of work I am finally more accepting of the fact that my emotions are there to help me relate to my world and deal with the reality of it. It has not been easy and at times I still fight it but I do understand God gave me these feelings for a reason and it is not healthy to try to resist or hide them.

Thanks for this post.


Joseph said...

I am so thankful my counselor is a Christian who is not afraid to use humor when humor is needed. The day I was huddling in myself and wondering if I been participating in the sin of the molester because part of the abuse was pleasurable, my counselor said, "The only thing that proves, Joseph, is that your dick worked." That certainly broke the tension I was feeling, and I leaned back and roared with laughter.