A Two-Year-Old At Heart

Years ago, when I worked as a nursery school teacher, I noticed how two year olds are extremely straight-forward with their feelings. They cry when they’re sad, laugh when they’re happy, and scream when they’re angry. (Shoot, they’ll bite when they’re angry!) Two-year olds are so impulsive with their feelings they often end up scaring themselves with their own intensity. I think that’s one reason they like stories with monsters; because they feel like one themselves. Toddlers growing from infanthood to more and more competence as separate individuals, ride the roller coaster of feelings from scared and overwhelmed to rebellion and even super-hero powerful. They like to be cuddled and babied, and they want to do everything themselves. Feelings sit at the core of a toddler’s identity. When there’s room for that in the family, all is well internally. When there’s no room, the feelings get stuck, and we get stuck with them.

We Need Emotional Guidance

Just as our intellect needs forming and guidance, so does our emotional life. Do we get that in our family? Not necessarily. Without loving acceptance and guidance, we end up emotionally stunted. Most adults I know, even the highly educated ones, carry some form of emotional baggage. They may compensate for an emotional immaturity with all sorts of sophisticated beliefs and philosophies, but let’s call a spade a spade: most adults in our culture are emotionally disconnected and relationship-impaired. We don’t do feelings, or at least, we don’t do them well. None the less, feelings are there, and if we don’t have them, they end up having us. We’ll recreate any situations from our own past in which the emotional charge of our experience was repressed for the sake of approval, acceptance, and sometimes even survival. We’ll unwittingly turn into reactive adults, having tsunami responses to the regular waves of life and interpersonal interactions. We’ll call it pathology or we’ll call it sensitivity, but whatever we call it, it is still our feelings from yesteryear leaking out, out of our conscious control.

A Group As Emotional/Relational Laboratory

When I was 17, I participated in a weekend Encounter Group, which is like a marathon therapy group, with twelve or so of my peers. The only agenda was to reveal ourselves and connect with each other, none of which I had ever done before, and all of which felt alien and even threatening, at first. Before the weekend was over, I had cried in the arms of a girl I didn’t know, and revealed to the group that I felt very isolated. What to my surprise, everyone applauded me and said they felt the same! Eureka! I have feelings! I can connect with others at a deep level! I felt closer with my Encounter friends than with anyone else, including my parents. That education influenced me profoundly, and here I am now, a therapist!

Politically Correct in the Dark

More miscommunication happens in the name of correctness and politeness and an avoidance of conflict or confrontation than from straight-on misunderstanding. Why? Like toddlers, we’re afraid of our own feelings and of hurting others with them. And ironically, by staying guarded and protective, we end up preventing real intimacy. Feelings sit at the heart of our adult identities as well, and when we suppress them, don’t freely express them, we end up stunting our own personal creativity and interpersonal satisfaction.

Let’s Get It Right This Time

Wouldn’t it be nice to learn feeling-communication skills? Wouldn’t it be nice to be secure enough to share both positive and negative feelings? Wouldn’t it be nice to find a safe space to engage our emotional healing and growth? And finally become who we are meant to be?

Welcome to the Healing Circle! We’re all about safety, making room, supporting, exploring, playing, laughing and crying together. We’re all about helping each other find and feel a baseline OK-ness about ourselves. I’m OK, and you’re OK. I’m not OK, and you’re not OK, but’s that’s OK! Welcome to the kindness of community! Welcome to the Healing Circle! You’re invited!

April 22. 11am-4pm, $99. Register by calling (561) 471-5867

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