in defense of those who ‘feel too much’

A doctor once told me I feel too much. I said, so does god. that’s why you can see the grand canyon from the moon. – Andrea Gibson

If you were a female who grew up in the early 2000’s as I did, you have most likely seen Mean Girls twenty times over. If you are anything like me at all, your life is still speckled with references from the movie, because let’s admit it, it was highly entertaining. Still, I thought it was a bit culturally damaging, if I could be quite honest. I still remember the impact it had on my peers – mean lines from the movie were repeated again and again, as jokes of course. We were all old enough to know how socially unacceptable and perhaps bitchy Regina George was, but because we had this intelligence and knew better, it made it okay for us to jokingly mimic her behavior. We were just joking.

I often wonder how pop culture effects our behavior. Are movies based on our actual behavior as humans, or as humans, do we base our behavior on what we see in the movies?

This question is one that has created so much anxiety within me that I tend to often not watch many movies or television shows, because I believe that we do base our behavior off of movies more than we like to admit. How many females have watched No String Attached and believed that the guy they are hooking up with was just one month away from making you period mixed tapes and realizing he can’t live without you?

The problem is, people who write and produce movies have an ability to manipulate situations and feelings in a controlled environment while also making them appear to be incredibly realistic. We don’t have that ability in real life.

Which, by the way, means horrible things for me.

Let me back up a little.

I recently listened to This American Life’s latest episode on the bliss of ignorance. How sometimes it’s for the best. The episode featured a man who was diagnosed with HSAM or highly superior autobiographical memory. Basically, he has an intensely accurate memory. In the episode, he spoke about how when he dates people, even if for just a short time, his emotions latch on to his very vivid memories and as a result of HSAM, he finds it very hard to let go if it doesn’t work out. After reading some other interviews that he has done, I learned that this has become an issue for him, as he is constantly looking for closure when the other person has already moved on.

Here’s an excerpt that struck me from his interview with New York Magazine:

“Alternatively, if it’s a bad breakup or unrequited love then the memories of that linger and hurt when I think about them — especially if there’s no closure. I’m thinking, What did I do? I’m forced to pick back through it. I can remember the last time I saw the person. I can remember where we were. I can remember a funny face they made or a thought or a feeling however fleeting or however lasting it was; I can remember those things. Even if the person ended up doing something wrong or ditches me, the initial positive memory is so strong it’s hard for me to separate: ‘How can you be this way now, when I remember you so vividly as something different?’

“What I do a lot is try and force conversations with people, which clearly they aren’t interested in, in the name of closure. I’ll try and seek a person out just to set the record straight, and I feel really awkward about it because I know it’s something that’s not socially acceptable and even therapists have told me it’s not worth it. But it’s very hard for me to not do that. In the case of a colleague I recently had a brief thing with, I tried a few times to sit them down, to get their attention, and they’re almost militantly, like, No! You have to leave me alone; you can’t talk to me about this. I’m putting myself out there in the name of closure and I end up looking like a fool. Or I end up making the person even more angry. They’ve already moved on and they aren’t even concerned with having closure.”

This struck a chord with me. It’s not that I have HSAM, but I have always been a very emotional person. But that word — “emotional” — sounds horrible. It sounds like that girl in the corner crying over a puppy that died in a commercial for dog food. (Okay, there has probably never been a commercial for dog food in which the dog dies, but you know what I mean.) It sounds like I lose my wits at the drop of a dime. It sounds like that girl in Mean Girls who crashes the self-esteem workshop because she “has so many feelings.”

But I want people to understand that’s not what I mean when I say I’m emotional. Or maybe it is, but it doesn’t have to be so stigmatized. When I think of my patterns over the past 26 years, I’d have to say that maybe I just feel things a little more strongly than other people. It took me almost as long to realize that sometimes, other people don’t. But I’ve always just expected that everyone was the same way as me, and so I would be that girl writing letters to the guy who screwed me over – because if that memory of us playing our favorite song while driving downtown could evoke such strong emotion in me, it must do the same for him, right?

I always felt that this was something I needed to hide. Well, mainly, because I couldn’t come to terms with it. And everyone was telling me to stop. Don’t write the guy. Stop telling every person how much they mean to you. So, why did I feel so deeply? Why could I remember what he was wearing that time when he told me he loved me for the first time? And worse, why couldn’t I just forget?

To make things worse, other people had those same questions for me, too. It seemed to me that other people were better at moving on, forgot more readily, and looked at me as if I was some sort of overly-obsessed alien missing a backbone. Get over it.

It was hard for me to explain that if I could just “get over it” that would be the first thing I would do, because the intense emotions weren’t exactly welcome visitors. I wanted to explain to them it was like a mother-in-law that came to visit for a weekend and decided to stay for the rest of her life. I couldn’t get away.

But how do you explain something like that when emotions are so mocked in the media? No one wants to be Ted Mosby pining over Robin or Ross Gellar pining over Rachel. No one wants to be the person with intense emotions. But what happens when you are?

Nothing.

It took me 26 years to realize this and it will probably take me the rest of my life to understand it.

Some people hardly feel things at all and some people feel things with such intensity it may drive them to insanity. It has nothing to do with you as a human being, it has to do with how you were wired. Just as some people are prone to stomach pain while others could eat greasy foods and caffeine for the rest of their life and their stomachs can be fine. People with allergies may love flowers but the pollen is too intense for their nose, while their friends only sneeze when they get a cold.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by things other people don’t see as a big deal and I cry. So fucking what? Let me cry. Unless my teardrops are comprised of poison, I’m not hurting anyone. Sometimes I look at a flower hanging upside down and think its unconventional beauty is a metaphor for my life. So fucking what? Let me write a poem about it. Sometimes I think about all of the people I have ever loved and how much I will miss them when they are gone. Sometimes I try to hold on too tight because I know how intensely I feel and love and care. So fucking what? Let me tell them how much they mean to me.

But what I don’t do often enough is look at the beauty that presents itself in this wonderful arrangement. I mean, if given the choice, I’d rather feel too much than not enough – wouldn’t you? It’s a strength, not a weakness.

What I’m saying is, we are all made differently and we ought to stop hating ourselves for it. I mean, I think my dog feels too much when he runs full speed into the kitchen cabinets because I said “treat” from 5 rooms over. And coincidentally, that’s precisely why I love him.

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2 thoughts on “in defense of those who ‘feel too much’

  1. I’m too much of a “feeler” myself and your thoughts resonate with me. I’ve had a very similar experience and yes, coping with the loss of love is hard. Very hard.

    But you don’t let insensitive people make you into one of them, you play your emotions to your advantage. Your values and sentiments make you a beautiful person.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautifully written! I’m the aforementioned HSAMer 😉 and I concur with what you’ve said; favorite line is, “I mean, if given the choice, I’d rather feel too much than not enough – wouldn’t you? It’s a strength, not a weakness.” Amen 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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