when i met jason back in fall of 2008, it felt like i had met a long lost brother. i was a nervous resident assistant with 54 college students to look after and i was pretty much a baby myself. somehow, jason made that job seem easier and 11 years later, i have an extended member of my family. part of why our relationship is one that i value so much is because we can keep things light like having salads at an outdoor spot with his two dogs during a summer day, we can be adventurous and conquer various music festivals together, we enjoy the same movies (john wick is a grossly underrated movie – i will go down to my grave fighting for keanu) but we can also talk about the heavy shit. another thing we realized we had in common early on was how few people we talked to about the heavy shit.
why was that?
for both of us, it was layered but after a ton of reflection, i think it became pretty obvious that it was less about appearing to be weak and more about not knowing who to trust with the heavy shit paired with not wanting to burden those around us. we are both viewed as “the stable ones” in many of the relationships in our lives but something we had to recognize is that stability is not synonymous with lacking feeling or emotion.
in sessions with clients, i often talk about unsuccessful compartmentalization of emotions like putting trash in trash can with a lid. if you are like me and taking out the trash is your least favorite household chore, you might be one of those people who puts trash in and continues to smoosh it down over and over again. then one day, when you go to smoosh it down, the lid just won’t stay closed. if it is not addressed, trash will inevitably start to spill out. once it starts to spill out, there is no way to control what spills out, what odors seep into the air, etc. it simply has to be addressed or it gets out of control. i do not do well when things are out of control. i like structure. i like a plan. i like being reasonable. i like being rational.
coming across this quote last week made me think of me and jason at our worst and served as a much needed reminder to not simply stuff our emotions. unfortunately, i could not find the author but this was beyond brilliant and i will be using it in session with clients this upcoming academic year.
“stuffing our emotions is like putting them into a pressure cooker. it’s only a matter of time until they explode, causing an emotional outburst that feels big, messy and disproportionate to the situation we are in. this experience reinforces that emotions are terrible causing us to return to stuffing. it’s a vicious cycle.”
a pressure cooker. how had i not thought of that?
one of the things that used to upset me most about my own unsuccessful compartmentalization of emotions was the outburst that followed. the outburst would often make it impossible for the recipient to take what i was saying seriously because i could be compared to a child throwing a tantrum. it was coming out that way because of the build up – the build up that i was allowing to happen. for longer than i care to admit, i continued that same process because i convinced myself that expressing my emotions only resulted in me looking (and feeling) crazy. i don’t even know if jason realized how he was part of me breaking this cycle.
it is like i have my own accountability partner to encourage me to do something other than stuff my emotions in a pressure cooker.
have you experienced the emotional outburst after stuffing your emotions in a pressure cooker? do you have an accountability partner (a friend, family member, partner, etc.) that encourages and/ors inspires you to address emotions as they come up?