Living Life Out Loud; Emotional Intensity and the Adult

So, it’s confession time.  As you all know by now, I was a gifted child.  And I’m an emotionally intense adult.  So I thought I’d paint a picture of a typical emotionally intense day…

The day started as any other day -  productive, satisfying, good.  I came home from work and decided to try to pound out a chapter or so in a book I am working on.  A friend had done some edits, so I read through them first, deciding to do a little editing before moving forward.  Her suggestions were minor – easily fixable things that would definitely make the story stronger.

No big deal.

Or was it.

You see, it was one of those “a whisper is a scream” moments.  And the minor edits grew in my head to insurmountable obstacles.  Things that made me question the entire novel.  Is this good enough?  Maybe it is just garbage?  What was I thinking?  Etc.  And so the spinning, obsessive nature of emotional intensity began.

Now, I am very clear on my “issues”.  I know all about the weird moodiness, the affective memory, the over excitability - all of it.  I am comfortable with it.  But man, some days, it is really hard.

Like really really hard.

I have spent weeks paralyzed by my own self-inflicted fear – a consequence of my own emotional intensity. Yes weeks.

I have learned over the years how to combat my issues.  I know I rationalize things when I am stressed or afraid, finding logical reasons why I can or can not do something.  And of course, that is what I did in this situation.

I also know how to call myself on the carpet when I do this.

So, as I wrote this post,  I emailed my crit partner, committed to a deadline for another chapter or two and got back on the proverbial horse. I overcame the negative aspects of my emotional intensity.

Not all of my particularly intense moments are bad.  They are also the moments that enable to craft a story.  Or counsel a troubled and confused child.  Or inspire a friend.

For me, the intensity is a natural as breathing.  I cannot imagine a life NOT lived out loud.  I cannot fathom a world not full of bold colors.

And I wouldn’t want to.

How about you guys?  Any stories to share?

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11 thoughts on “Living Life Out Loud; Emotional Intensity and the Adult

  1. I am coming to realize just how big the toll is that I pay for my emotional intensity. It leeches out to everyone around me, sometimes in ways I don’t realize or don’t recognize. But I pay for it daily – in middle-of-the-night heart-pounding stress-out sessions, in tears that won’t stop over a perceived (but very real to me) slight, in terrific highs and astounding lows. It stops me in my tracks with fear and doubt, and presses me forward to try something new. I am a gifted adult – not eminent by any means, but still gifted – and I am emotionally intense.

  2. Every year of my schooling through college, I would vow to “not cry in school this year.” I never made it. In grade 1, it was my swept up pet rock. In grade 3, my friend fell and bled. I cried; she didn’t. It was always something. But I held my drama within for the most part as I sought to present an even-keeled self to the world.
    Because of my high idealism and high denial about my emotional intensity, I chose “inner city school teacher” as my first job. I went home and cried daily. Then I would run, while crying sometimes, and rise with hope, pheonix-like, to create a great and inspiring lesson for the next day which would surely engage all my students. And then it would happen all over again. I did try suburbs teaching (very disappointed that I couldn’t hack it in the real world) after that, which was much more suited to engage my intellectual self and not just my emotional self. But still, it took me a very very long time to learn to leave school at school.And sometimes I still forgot.
    I agree with Christine that channeling strong emotion into writing is really positive. It’s very therapeutic for me. I don’t even have to be having the same issues as my characters. I can be upset over a “perceived slight” (in the PTA…ha) and totally write about my main character’s love angst. Really cool.
    Because of my very intellectual nature, I sometimes wonder why I didn’t go for a PhD in English Lit. Then I remind myself. I didn’t because I thought it was more “useful” to the world to teach high school English. Also, college profs often present very dry intellectual unemotional ways to read a text. “Reader Response” is very important to me. I have run 3 bookclubs in my life. Currently I run one made up of mostly 80 year old Unitarian women. I love it! We connect about life as we discuss the books. It’s a beautiful thing.
    One way I COPE with my emotional intensity is by taking walks and by staring into space. =) It’s all about the introversion thing for me. And yet I can still get “worked up.”

  3. This past weekend, I attended a workshop with the magical Julia Cameron – at least that is my opinion of this woman I’ve only heard mentioned with great admiration and awe. Yes, I own “The Artist’s Way” but never got very diligent about morning pages, but I so looked forward to this opportunity. Most of the workshop had assignments to write quick responses to certain lists and categories, and then break into groups of three, or pair off into a twosome. I will say that the first six or eight of these assignments carried a certain excitement with them, and was a good mixer for sure. Part of the instructions included forming groups with people we had not yet worked with.
    By the mid-afternoon of the second day, it was acknowledged that by now, nearly everyone had someone in their group that they had met with, and in one of the longer assignments, we had four in our group. I was a little uncertain exactly how to approach the assignment, so I asked the others to proceed so I could feel assured that I was approaching this exercise in the proper manner.
    The three who preceded me gave thought-filled replies and then it was my turn. My response triggered an emotional wound I didn’t know was still in there, and the tears spilled, which always makes me feel “less than”. However, I struggled forward with my tale, and just as I was approaching the point of my story, from my left, the first one who had spoken at length in the group, placed her hand on my knee and said, “You know, we only have so much time to do this assignment and we have so many categories yet to go through. Why don’t you wait to finish your story, and if there is time at the end of the exercise, you could finish what you’re trying to tell us.”
    If I wasn’t feeling the pain of disappointment before, combined with the betrayal of some tears that would not go away, I now felt entirely shamed and completely inadequate. My gut was screaming, “How dare you?” My mind was hissing “I paid money for this seminar, I have earned my place in this room, I’ve listened to some of your silly tales, and I deserve the right, and came back around to, how dare you?”
    They completed their other nine points following which, the sweet smiling wench said, “Now, why don’t you finish what you were saying . . . .” to which I replied, “I only wanted to address the one assignment as it was the one that I could speak to. I have nothing to add to the other categories.” It was the best I could manage in my attempt to regain control of my voice and my image.
    Inwardly my now wrenching gut was twisted as was my soul. It was the “Mean Girls” all over again, and I did not know where this reaction came from while being amazed that it was so strong and fearful.
    As I’ve frequently heard, twenty people can complement us, but that one – just one – critical comment is the voice we remember that haunts us long after the words have passed. And this was that experience magnified.
    As I did my first set of ‘morning pages’ the day following, my fears and fury spilled onto the page in great pain. And when it was complete, I had another voice that said, “If you didn’t already fear that you weren’t good enough, the words of this person would not have so troubled you.”
    It helped me look at my “inner stuff” and my confidence level and my expectations that everything and everyone would be a good experience. While I’m not ready to send off a thank you note to the Knee Patter, my gut is still knotted but my head is a little clearer on what we writers and artists go through as we share the gifts we have been given. Sadder, but wiser, I will work on knitting a cloud of protection to rap around myself when next I am bleeding onto the page with people and their most unexpected comments.

    • Knee Patter is an idiot. Your head sounds like the inside of my head. You write so well about it. I took a memoir class once where everything was too raw for me. Then I took some fiction classes. After getting through the first class (much crying and wanting to give up), I find I do like it. I can’t believe Julia Cameron didn’t come over and try to resolve it.

      • My back was to Julia, and we were sitting toward the back of a large and noisy room. Thank you for your acknowledging that awkwardness and pain that this created. It is likely a part of my switching of the sensitivity nerve that will rise again, but I don’t know when I will ever become completely desensitized.

      • There are some things that I have gotten less sensitive about and there are some things I will always be sensitive about. I don’t know anyone, even my least sensitive friends, who would not have taken offense to essentially being cut off during sharing time. And talked down to essentially. Reminds me of a time someone my age, called me “honey” and… I’ll spare you the details. =)

  4. Here is me getting upset about a book:
    Family Reunion Emotional Rawness at 4 am. 11/08
    Eckhart Tolle
    Wants a holey
    Where there is my “I”
    But feelings swallowed
    Leaves me hollow
    And messed up inside.
    I should transcend
    And rise beyond
    My interpersonal pride
    As I’d done for years
    Yet often tears
    Were later in my eyes.
    And so I state
    My love and hate
    For each passing moment now.
    I’d love to be
    Beyond it all
    And yet I don’t know how.

  5. Yesterday was awful–I had three women either troll me or just not be that supportive. The first one was I hope either drunk or mentally ill, because I was talking with my classmate on a patio, and I said ass in some way, and the weirdo lady said, “You said ass in public.” I said, “Yes I did, and you’re listening too hard!” Then she comes back and we ignore her, and then she says, “No ass.” That one is kinda funny, but still annoyed that some people–maybe psychopaths (not being hyperbolic)–take advantage of my open nature.

    The 2nd occurrence was with a writing exercise I had to do with a partner, my classmate. It was so awful–we were not connecting, and what she had written wasn’t very helpful to what I had to write, so then she was blaming me for it sucking–in the smiling, kidding way, of course. Anyway, that ruined the rest of my life–I still have some emotional residue from it. But also, it was supposed to be fun. She made it unfun, but I also allowed her to do that–which is what’s key here. She doesn’t control my emotions–I do. Also, this classmate is out of the circle of trust. Period. ;-)

    Then the last one was a random Twitter troll who purposely misspelled, or is just a horrible speller, saying that I was incredibly insecure (I had been tweeting my thoughts on the night and just how everything has gone wrong since I’ve moved here, but trying to learn from it). That was also stupid and untrue–I just blocked them (don’t feed the trolls!). But it didn’t help my already porous, defeated feelings.

    As a recovering perfectionist, it’s hard to practice self-compassion, but I feel like this time in my life, I’m being forced to learn how to do it. It should be OK to fail, but I wanted to write the best story–I just couldn’t. But I am enough–crap story or not. And I think living with intensity involves a lot of self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-forgiveness. I actually need to forgive myself for not only writing that story, but also for being in a foul mood after. Feels very foreign.

    Finally, even the highest highs are feelings that society wants me to rein in, which pisses me off, because that’s at least the upside of having an intense life. I’m getting this close to saying, “**** it, I do not care about what anyone thinks, including the critic in my head.” There’s a true freedom in that, and I can’t wait to get to that place.

    And I wish that for all of us.

    • me too! I’m just this -wee- close to that. I cried in school today cuz I was just sick of holding it in. and being alone. I’ve gone through depression, etc. the whole shebang and damn am i sick of it! I’ve been “coping” by just repressing and trying to conform but that’s just caused me more stress and after reading things about gifted children, I’m starting to understand the only i can do is just be myself. Cuz that’s the only way to be happy. Repression is not the answer -_- Except I have a difficult mother and I have to fake it in front of her. Perhaps I can do it at school? -sigh- I don’t know. Everything is just too difficult :(

  6. For years, I’ve tried to quash my instinctive reactions to setbacks and frustrations. I learned early on that if I went to my parents, particularly my mother, with the tears and panic that come whenever an unexpected source of stress appears, they’d respond with annoyance. Why was I wasting time panicking when I could just pull myself together and face it? Why was I overreacting to something so patently easy to sort out? Turns out I have an anxiety disorder, which explains a heck of a lot. But it’s like PMS – having General Anxiety Disorder doesn’t mean that my reactions to things are in fact inaccurate or somehow not real. It just magnifies the situation.
    This leads me to an issue that has been a problem since high school: I’m a weeper. I was in choir in high school under the direction of a talented man who has little patience with anyone whose behavior doesn’t match what he thinks is right. Every time I auditioned for a new choir or worked with him on solo stuff, I’d end up in tears. He’d then get angry, which would increase my stress level further and I’d be unable to calm down. If he’d only stopped to let me regain my composure he’d have seen that yes, there are tears, but they last for maybe a minute, tops, and then I get on with things. It’s like a pressure-release valve, letting me get rid of a little of the stress so I can cope. Unfortunately he saw it as weakness and emotional immaturity instead of what it is – a coping mechanism devised by an emotional makeup fundamentally different from him.

  7. Well worded. Sounds familiar.

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