Emotions as Weather
Although most people in the country wouldn’t agree, we in Southern California have been having extreme weather conditions for us: rain and mudslides. You could almost say we’re so used to mild conditions that we become afraid of what others would call “real” weatherweather wimps. Being afraid, ashamed of, or embarrassed by your feelings is like being afraid of the weather, because emotions (tears, panic attacks, angry outbursts, withdrawal, depression, elation, lust, romantic excitement, euphoria) are the weather conditions of the inner self.
Certainly there are weather conditions that are fearsome, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, exploding volcanoes and fierce fires, and we need to control these if we can, and protect ourselves from them. But, like the weather, most emotional climate conditions are pretty mild.
My clients have found it very helpful to use the metaphors of weather to understand how natural and normal all feelings are. Here are my thoughts on the basics of emotional weather. It’s a concept I'm just working out, so please share your ideas and reactions.
Rain first carries with it the dust suspended in the air, and then washes everything clean as it continues. Emotional rain, too, can first be painful, and then begin to bring release and clarity. A “good cry” is one that really lets go of the held feelings and continues until relief sets in.
Cloudiness and Fog
Your Sense of Emotion
Your emotions tell you what others’ feelings are. We can sense, in an almost psychic way, how someone feels at a distance, without being told. By comparing what our other senses tell us about others (smiles, frowns, tension, “prickly vibes,” relaxed breathing and an indescribable type of data we call empathy) with what we know about our own inner feelings, we draw conclusions about what other people are feeling. Without being told, we know when someone is angry, when someone has strong positive or negative feelings toward us, and when we are loved.
With conscientious practice, people can improve their use of senses, such as being a wine taster, reading braille, refining your sense of color as an artist, or learning to tell different fabrics by texture. Certain people, such as psychotherapists and actors, practice and refine emotions until they can sense very small changes. As a psychotherapist, I “read” my clients’ emotions and give them feedback to help them sort out emotional confusion. “You say you’re fine, but you appear to be angry,” I might say to someone who is disconnected from his feelings.
Sight is an external sensewe only see what’s outside us. Touch, however, is both internal and external. We can feel food go down our gullet, on occasion we can feel our own heartbeat, and we can feel muscle cramps and movement from inside the body. Emotions are a sense that is simultaneously internal and external. To our emotions, it’s as if there’s no limit to our bodies, and our skin is transparent. We feel our feelings on the inside, and yet they reach out and touch people and tell us what they’re feeling, too. It is a type of psychic sense, especially to people who develop it.
Just as your sight helps you navigate the roads, avoid obstacles, and choose the best route, your emotions are the sense that help you navigate the paths of relationships. If you are knowledgeable about your feelings, and your sensitivity to others’ feelings, you can be much more effective in all your relationships, maximizing your love, your intimacy, your emotional well-being, and your happiness.
From It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page Books, 2003) © 2004 Tina B. Tessina
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