There once was a little boy who was discouraged from showing fear and as a result he was terrified to share any fear with himself and those around him. Once, early in his life, he tried to share his fear with his father and his father became confused, distant and confronted him. When his father saw his son experiencing what he perceived as weakness he told him the same thing that his own father did, “Come on! Be a man! Show no fear!”
And you know what happened?
The little boy became a man and like the good boy he so desperately wanted to be, he learned how to control his fear instead of feel it. He learned how to limit the emotions that he would express so that he could please his father. Much like a volcano mistaken for a mountain he became tall, calm, impressive, and beautiful. Something to be admired by all. Other people noticed how much he could endure, how strong he was and how immovable he seemed. All the while, there was burning emotion building up pressure beneath the stoic surface. Everything appeared to be fine until one day he exploded. Years of controlled emotion burst through the surface in a hopeless rage followed by a temporary calm. This pattern continued for a long time and after each explosion a cloud of shame settled over the once calm mountain.
These explosions continued to come seemingly out of nowhere hurting those around him and ultimately, himself. Sometimes he lost friendships because of it. Once or twice he lost something even more precious. In his subconscious attempt to maintain control he began losing important parts of his life in the waves of chaos and fury. After each eruption the shame would descend and he would look at those people that had survived the chaos and chose to stay. His fear would take control and he would try to hide, beg and blame. “No one can know about my pain” he would tell himself. “I have to suffer my pain in secret. I have to control it.”
If he had only known that he could temper his rage By simply acknowledging, “I’m afraid”
In doing so, he would have harnessed his rage and shared the burden with those around him. His connections would be silently forged and sewn closer together. Because of that disclosure he would have the ability to change the story of who he became. If he would have known to share his fear before it turned to rage, he would not have done things that conflict with his true self.
If people make the suppression of emotion a habit those emotions will eventually come boiling to the surface and cause profound damage to their lives. If the man could have learned to feel his feelings, he would have experienced an outcome different from living his life like a dormant volcano waiting to explode.
Andy Smith, LMFT runs Hope Ridge Counseling, a counseling practice in Nashville, TN that helps artists find balance and wholeness.