By Donald B. Calhoun
Unfortunately, many folks have a hard time expressing their feelings, especially when it comes to emotional expressions of love. This becomes especially true for people during heightened emotional events such as grief. The great philosophers throughout history have used this topic to spin epic stories of tragedy. I was recently having a conversation with one of my colleagues about the need for understanding, developing, and expressing the importance of emotional language. Our work in the monument business has provided us with a front row seat to hearing children express, “Dad never told me that he loved me.” Who knows maybe it’s a generational thing?
My colleague is a millennial and I am a baby boomer. One day, he expressed shock when he witnessed someone saying: “I love you, Don.” He then turned around only to discover it was one of my best friends, Duane. He expressed how odd and uncomfortable he felt witnessing the exchange, especially between two male friends. Digging deeper, I asked why he felt that way. He simply said that two dudes expressing love was just odd. He told me that if he said that to his best friend he would get punched!
Have the Talk of a Lifetime is intended to be an important tool in making sure that we don’t put off expressing our love to our family and friends until it’s too late. It is indeed tragic to observe individuals who love and care for others, and yet they are not able to even begin to express it.
The truth is, love is an emotion. Love is hard to express and explain. But in its simplest form it is the feeling and the knowledge of connection, the understanding that we matter to someone, and that they matter to us. We have often heard that the highest form of love is unconditional. This means that it is not bound by rules or conditions but a gift to be given freely.
Why is it so hard for so many people to express their deep emotional feelings? If you ponder this in the manor of Aristotle, Socrates, or the Dude from the Big Lebowski, we naturally build protective walls to keep ourselves from getting hurt. They are learned behaviors that are natural, reasonable, and serve us well in daily life. Without these natural barriers to protect us the doctor, nurse, teacher, policeman, firefighter, soldier, or caregiver would not be able to function under very stressful situations. They must put aside their emotions to cope and do their assigned task.
Every teeter totter has a fulcrum. That fulcrum provides the center point or balance. We must learn to balance the ability to express feelings of the heart with a realistic level of protection of our mental state. The cost of building emotional barriers denies our true ability to express love. Herein lies the paradox of love; we can get hurt emotionally when we choose to love but we can’t experience love if we choose not to. There is a wonderful TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability that has been viewed over 26 million times and that proves that people want to crack this paradox!
The famous Pink Floyd song Comfortably Numb captures the essence of this subject in the tragic lyrics: “Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anybody home?” This would be a true catatonic conundrum of epic proportions. Don’t let your dreams of love and affection head in the wrong direction. Don’t let your fears and anxiety of expressing your feelings of love and affection stop you. Have the Talk with those you care about, so you can live a full life with fewer regrets! The Dude abides.