Nature, Mindfulness and Emotion

Here’s a thing I keep banging my head against. I want to be mindful in all things, conscious of my actions and words and in control of them. I consider this essential for living in ethical and honourable ways. What this means in practice is that I spend most of my time trying very hard to maintain suitable levels of self control.

Now, here’s the rub. Most of my emotions are so intense, so all consuming, that the idea of them passing through gently is hard to imagine. I live in fairly intense emotional spectrums, and repressing any emotion so that it does not result in a physical expression is unspeakably hard. Experience to date suggests that the physical expression of my emotions does cause distress to others, and I am not comfortable with causing that distress, so mostly I try not to. Frequently I fail.

The quandary: Do my emotions, in their raw, chaotic and powerful state, constitute my nature, or are they something that I need to learn to tame and control? If they are my nature, are they allowable, is there some place for them, somewhere in the world? If I tame them, I might be able to become the more placid, docile, biddable person I feel certain the people around me would find it more comfortable to deal with. Would I be a better person if I could tame the extremities of my feelings?

Or is there anything in here that might have an intrinsic value, somewhere, somehow? (I’m unconvinced, but I have to ask for the sake of balance.)

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying for control, trying to be what those around me want me to be – of which one of the key elements has always been expressing a gentle, co-operative persona, which is just a construct, is not in any way ‘real’ in terms of how I understand myself. And there are days when holding that together and keeping it smiling is so hard that I just want to curl up and weep.

I will confess that I have spent my whole life yearning for some kind of space where I could feel safe about letting some of the other stuff out. There have been times, sharing music, when I’ve been able to express and feel fully alive, in the moment, whole… but music is abstract, and it’s easy for people not to have to look too hard at what’s really going on there, which makes it inherently safer. There are times when the sheer loneliness inherent in feeling unable to share my emotional self, is crippling. I say it, in case there is someone out there who feels this too, and who can find some catharsis, or companionship in these words.

I’m not sure it is mindfulness. It’s a good cover. It may in fact be fear. I know perfectly well that what lives on the inside is a fairytale monster full of teeth and excess. If it gets out, if anyone sees it, I will become an exile. Hiding is survival. Mindfulness keeps the fear of what I am under control.

I know I am blessed with some brilliant, insightful and forthright commentators on this blog. This is without a doubt the most personal thing I have ever put in a public place. It will be interesting to see what anyone does with this.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “Nature, Mindfulness and Emotion

  • Jayne

    ‘I’ve spent most of my adult life trying for control, trying to be what those around me want me to be – of which one of the key elements has always been expressing a gentle, co-operative persona, which is just a construct, is not in any way ‘real’ in terms of how I understand myself. And there are days when holding that together and keeping it smiling is so hard that I just want to curl up and weep.’…
    Just one of your comments that makes me think that you are in fact living a lie. It is so important to express yourself and be confident that whether people like you or not, this is you and ‘lump it’. None of us are perfect and should certainly never try to be.How can life be happy and fulfilled when you hide your true self away all the time?
    ‘Do or do not, there is no try!’…..Yoda.

  • bish

    Only you know what lies behind your words, and only I that which hides behind mine. But some days I simply want to scream and scream and lash out and kill and bite and … mostly I don’t. And that’s a goodness, on the whole. It’s not living a lie, nor allowing nature to express herself, nor would it even make me feel better or that I was closer to nature.

    We are, by dint of our parents and some potential plan to which we have the occasional hint, human. Part of being human is being the social animal, the maker, the changer… One might as readily seek the rightness behind a canal over a river – the one, a human construction, is far easier to live on, more reliably stable. The other is a pleasure to know from a gentle distance..

    For me than, the natural tensions, drives and urges we hold within are the catalyst, the energy, with which we drive our outward normality through this brief carnate period. Outward normality (for a given value of normal, always) makes it possible to co-exist without finding ourselves suddenly ‘beyond the pale’. Without those inner terrors we would not be the same, but with those same terrors out in the open… we would not be the same.

    You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…

  • Bel

    Dont you just love synchronicity ! Ive been sat here thinking what to say about this, as my recent failed relationship failed due to my partner not understanding my need to express things and not keep them inside. As Im sitting here, playing through a playlist a friend posted, I heard this song.

    Marillion – Its Not Your Fault

    You’re only human
    So am I
    It’s such a shame we have these secrets and lies
    That get discovered from time to time

    Whatever rises eventually falls
    The world turns and it turns on us all
    You can’t live life without making mistakes
    You can’t live trying to keep the outside world away

    It’s time to stop
    Beating yourself up

    It’s not your fault
    It’s not your fault
    It’s not your fault

    I broke a mirror
    Maybe two
    Shattered reflections
    That’s all I have of you
    Crackin’ like eggshell beneath my fear
    I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t keep the outside world away
    Oh dear
    When you lie down to sleep
    Repeat after me

    It’s not your fault
    It’s not your fault
    It’s not your fault
    We’re both so tired

    It’s not your fault
    It’s just the way we’re wired

  • Terry Mace

    For me Nimue, this post shows me your best writing and whenever you share like this I always find the content much more useful and connected to my own life issues, stuggles and path as a human being and spiritual being. For example, last November I was diagnosed with BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ve been working on a personal blogsite myself but have not yet opened it up for public view as of yet. However, when you write such personal words and content as you did in this post it makes me aware that I could take courage to do the same and open up my site… …as always an excellant post 😉

  • Argenta

    I feel tempted to write only — me too, as this is the only thing I feel I can honestly say in reply to such a deeply personal post. And still, I want to say more, if my limited ability to use English will let me.

    I want to say that it is brave of you to share this, what you feel and what you are. It is something I’ve been trying to do more of lately, only off-line. I think it is a part of growing up, to have the places, the people, and the courage to be more ourselves openly, and less hiding away in socially acceptable constructs. I also want to say that such constructs do have their place, and just because they are not intrinsically ours, does not mean we cannot mold them to be better suited to our own personalities. There are times when uniformity is welcomed, but I think that as we develop we find more and more times and places, and people too, that appreciate the quirkiness, the strangeness, and even some wildness.

    And that reminds me; whenever I have issues with my emotions, re-reading Women Who Run With Wolves helps immensely: it is a wonderful reminder of how we can be both wild and tame, both desctructive and constructive… but it is an art to find the precise circumstances in which these can be exercised without harming ourselves and others. It is a personal belief that we as humans are responsible for finding our own balance, our own meaning, and our own order in which we can be healthy, strong, and happy, without having to compromise either spectrum of the nature–culture duality. Still, it may take more than a lifetime to manage.

    So, what I wanted to say was, me too 🙂

  • autumnbarlow

    Here, too.

    I felt like that most of my late teens and all of my twenties. Then…I don’t know. It simply faded. Rose up now and then, in response to external factors. I found some relationships caused a constant storm in me. And others did not.

    I am not going to say “i grew out of it” which some people did suggest to me. I don’t think I did, and that implies those feelings are “wrong”. They are not. What they were, however, was exhausting. I was shattered, living like that. And though I sometimes mourn the loss of emotions, I don’t miss feeling utterly drained after a burst of passion.

    Now I’ve got used to it, I prefer feeling calm. But I also know those feelings are still in me, in potentia, depending on circumstance…

  • Nimue Brown

    Oh, I am tearful here, in a good sort of way. Thank you, everyone. I’ve had some time between river and canal, (literally) trying to find words, and space, and new ways of thinking. Women who Run with the Wolves was a very welcome prompt, thank you Argenta. There is a way of being both, and not compromising, and not feeling like a lie, and not actually killing anybody. I will keep searching for it.

  • Nimue Brown

    Thank you for the clarifications Jo, much appreciated. I realise what I’ve not had was the space to sit with those emotions, the freedom to experience in a private way, to rock and howl where needed. I’m working on having that space, because without it, there’s no room for the rest of the process either.

  • corvusrouge

    Have you heard the phrase “What energies you feed, you give life to” ?

  • Nimue Brown

    Yes, and the story about the two wolves inside every person.

    In terms of conscious, deliberate working I devote lot of time to what I think are the ways I want to be… but it’s not as simple as one evil wolf, one good wolf. Part of what creates the challenge for me is that I know, when I’m being honest, that it’s the darkness in me, the anger, the nightmares, and the intenisty of passion that fuel the creativity. If I didn’t have some monsters in my head, I probably couldn’t write. The best that I do sometimes depends on that within me which is least tame, least socially acceptable, and it would be fair to say that creates tensions sometimes. There’s also some unresolved historical stuff, which I’m working on, but that appears to have a lot of layers.

  • corvusrouge

    Never been entirely convinced with that two wolf story. Anyway, if we look at nature, it is usually the case that that it’s friction (or tension) that creates change. How that friction is arrived at is more often than not, viewed from a human cultural perspective as a negative. And the amount of change driven by a negative tentitively suggests that the negatively driven change is actually the norm. Satisfaction can lead to inertia, which seems be counterproductive after a certain period of time. I’m convinced that “part of the purpose” of humanity is to be a facilitator of change, it’s in our DNA. The one difference with humanity over the rest of nature though is we have the capacity to choose the changes (in a lot of cases) that we inititiate. The difficulty is trying to harness that creative process into a culturally acceptable framework. And sometimes, it’s appropriate that it doesn’t sit inside it at all.

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