Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Are Feelings Actions?

Hot on the heels of a terrible row with one of my close friends (and I'll tell you right now, it's all been fixed and tidied up and we're both fine), I've gone introspective again by questioning what truly constitutes 'action'.

To give you a little perspective of what I'm talking about, the fight was about him not wanting to have to censor his words, and me not wanting to have to censor my feelings. My stand, for sometime now, was very pragmatic about emotions, especially since I have a temper and calling me "emotional" would be an understatement. I basically adhere to "judge a person by his actions, and not his thoughts", with thoughts not being limited to the cerebral but to the emotional, and the actions coming to include hurtful words that are spoken out of spite.

It's because of this code that I've always felt guilty about losing my temper - I turn nasty and sarcastically succinct not caring about the other's feelings - and why, especially for my loved ones, I tend to shy away from confrontations (as opposed to with people I care less about where I'm slightly [okay, more than slightly] more aggressive). I need to time to calm down, to think about why I'm upset, to differentiate whether or not I'm overreacting, to arrange my thoughts and pinpoint what exactly bothered me and, if I'm still bothered, to find a way to say these things without being hurtful. Unfortunately, I'm also a terrible liar and I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. So when I'm bothered by something in public - bar me walking out - I tend to be obvious about it.

Which got me to my current introspective dilemma now. My close friends (and even to some extent my husband) have been subtly hinting that I should be more open about my feelings, to confront them and not to be afraid to them, to tell people outright when I feel like I'm being offended or hurt so as to prevent escalation. Some of them even had stated that they prefer the hurtful words over the awkward silences wherein I would ensconce myself in my own turbulent thoughts, letting them to be unwilling witnesses to my despair.

But how can I stop the way I feel? How do people learn not to get hurt? And yet, despite this, I do see their point. When you see someone you love feel bad, you want to do something about it. And the very inaction of the loved-one-who-feels-bad could cause you tremendous pain or, at the very least, incredible discomfort. Should I really subject my friends to that just because I need some time to calm down? Should I start thinking that my emotions, by virtue of being felt and because it is so obvious, is an action in itself?

And if it is, does that mean my obvious solution is to become a better actress, to learn to hide my discomfort and my distress behind a more comprehensive mask?

For my close friend and I, we've come to a compromise about what we should do when something similar happens without compromising who we intrinsically are (because it would be a tragedy if you're not yourself with your friends). Only time will tell if it will work - if I will remember the code words and be calm enough to say them, and if he will remember the code words and remain calm enough to give me space until I can state my reasons.

But for the rest of my friends and family - what do I do?

What do I do?

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