I blame my grandiose fantasies, of dispelling stereotypes and creating connections through shared emotions, on an adorable cartoon animal of the 80’s. I had a deep affection for my plush Tenderheart Bear. His soft, brown fur and white belly, complete with a red heart at its center, became an affectionate companion of my youth. He was the leader of the other CareBears, the one who helped the other creatures understand the power of their emotions and how to use their feelings to defeat evil.
There is a reason this character is animated and not real; trying to create solidarity among peoples of differing opinions, with an emphasis on respect, is like expecting a zygote and a baby to talk nicely to each other. As the comment sections of most of our social-media confirms, animosity conquers. Nobody cares about your feelings. Sorry, Tenderheart.
Much like my animated, plush-friend, I have difficulty making sense of life choices that are based on pure logic. I get a twinge of angst in my gut witnessing someone drop statistics and data all over someone else’s life experience. It takes a little extra effort to acknowledge the people who do things juxtaposed to our individual choices, but those not willing to do so are really only singing to their own choirs.
I enjoy being right as much as the next person, but the things I feel most passionately about are the things I want my opponents to consider. I don’t want to scare them off with judgment or condemnation. It also behooves me to learn why they formed conclusions opposite to mine. I want the dialect, the heartfelt reasons someone’s journey lead them to convictions I couldn’t imagine having. Show me the emotions and suddenly I understand. Our disagreements stem from very similar feelings; ones that we routinely stuff down, ignore, or chalk up to pure rubbish.
I have never birthed a baby in a hospital, but I know what it feels like to be afraid and overwhelmed, feelings that my so-called adversaries have experienced as well. I know that hospitals save lives, but I “felt” more secure birthing four babies at home. We can connect here, in this feeling of security. And, now we are rolling and having a conversation in regards to all the wonderful reasons why someone may or may not birth in a hospital.
Feelings are a valuable starting place, not to be confused as an excuse to make up one’s mind about things. For example, the drudgery I “feel” for routinely removing 60% of my body hair hasn’t immediately lead to me unfurling my expanding bikini line on the masses. The assumed identity of what a “woman” looks like, an opinion held by most (some who have seen my underarm hair and called it “disgusting”), has led me to question, research, and discuss what kind of perimeters a woman is restricted to. Ultimately, the glorious aha moments come when I discover that my feelings often know things before my logical half confirms it (thank you intuition and Naomi Wolfe).
Not everyone processes the world around them like an INFP (personality type). But I know that I am only unique in regards to the other personalities that I take the time to understand. Knowing myself is a process that takes into consideration the world at large. And the way in which we process this life often comes in the form of emotions; they are absolutely not supposed to be stuffed away. The loveliest thing you can do is share them and simultaneously give someone permission to do the same.