Reflected

Feelings are peculiar things. Some people seem to consider them illusions, glosses that we paint, consciously or unconsciously, over reality and that affect our perception of that reality.

Some people look at the biological aspect of emotions, the chemical and electrical triggers. To these folks, perhaps, feelings are more substantial in nature, phenomena that have clear (even if science has not yet fully explained them) causes and effects.

Some believe that emotion, sensitivity to energies, even extra-sensory-perception (ESP) are senses like sight and smell, things that tell us about the reality around us.

And then there are those, like me, who believe that all three are true. I’ve seen how my emotions can cloud my perception, I’ve felt the chemical “switch” in my brain tick over and throw me into a depression that has no external cause. But I’ve also had experiences that tell me there is more to reality. If I am right about that last bit, and if we are capable of perceiving it, then our emotions may be part of a continuum of senses that tell us about the intangible.

C. S. Lewis, in one of his essays that I am too lazy at present to look for, talks about the difference between observation and experience, of how someone who is in love knows love in one way, and someone observing someone in love knows it another way, and how it is not immediately clear which experience is the more “true” or “accurate,” if, even, that question has any meaning. For I believe, and I think Lewis would agree with me, that both are true, but in different ways.  I’ve spent most of my life as the observer, and it has taught me a great deal.

Part of me doesn’t trust emotion. This part of me used to be much stronger than it is now. In fact, it used to rule me. This part sees emotions as irrational (which, to be fair, they are), and therefore untrustworthy at best, and dangerous at worst. Much of what I have observed over the years bears up this assumption.

Years ago, now, I ran up against the limits of my rational mind. It was like hitting a wall at high speed. It broke me. And I remained broken until I accepted that other ways of knowing have value, and that the rational mind is only capable of evaluating part of reality. Since then, with my prejudice against emotion weakened, I’ve been able to see the good it does in our lives, as well.

To put it another way, I am aware of the science behind sight. How light bounces off matter, is filtered by my eyes, bounced and refracted and then translated into images by my brain. I know that things can go wrong with this process, that it isn’t entirely trustworthy, and that at best, it is only showing me a tiny sliver (the visible spectrum) of reality. But at the same time, if it were not for this flawed perception, what would I know of the light? I need sight, even if I cannot always trust it entirely.

Perhaps emotions are similar in regard to the unseen world. They’re imperfect, only representative of a small input of information, and translated by an organ that is notoriously unreliable. But without them, what would I know of anything beyond the material world?

This has become particularly relevant to me lately as I am dealing with an extremely irrational and incapacitating emotion: I’m in love.

It’s TERRIFYING.

I may be more comfortable with my emotions than I was ten years ago, but this is in a league of its own. I have moments where my rational brain is screaming at me that I can’t be trusted, and other moments where the very same rational brain reluctantly admits that there is no way that I am going to be rational about this. And that that is ok. As long as I try not to be stupid, it’s time to take risks.

Some background: I’m 35. This is the first time I’ve been in love. I’ve had crushes, none of which were ever reciprocated. I’ve been on a few dates here and there, none of which turned into anything. I’ve had people crush on me when I couldn’t reciprocate, and once I was stalked, which sucks.

But now I have feelings for someone who also has feelings for me. This is completely new territory. I alternate from being emotionally overwhelmed in a pleasant way, to being overwhelmed with fear of the unknown. “…For love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs 8:6-7

It seems I have reason to fear. And that fear is compounded by my instinct to not trust emotion. My rational mind is not disengaged. I don’t even know how to disengage it. But I am well aware that this is not the time to be purely rational.

I am rambling, at at nearly 900 words I’d best wrap this up soon. I am not even sure what my point is, other than to see my thoughts placed into words.

If anything, I guess it is a question tossed into the ether: For someone who’s default is rational, who knows that even the best relationships are challenging, and who, though she has faith in a higher benevolent power who has her back, also believes that that doesn’t protect her from worldly consequences, how is it possible to fall in love?

And how far is too far to fall?

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

14 responses to “Reflected

  • robstroud

    Congratulations on your romance. It is worth the wait, when the right person comes along. (My youngest son, in his mid-thirties, just got engaged, so this is quite timely for this reader.)

    I try to trust the mind and the heart (e.g. emotions), deferring to the former. We must always remember that since we are fallen human beings… both have been corrupted. So, neither is completely reliable.

    From my personal perspective, emotions are more prone to misleading us. Unlike reason (which can result in changed thoughts or ideas), emotion can zig and zag without any apparent “reason.”

    I love it when the two come together.

    Again, my prayers for you as you continue to build this new relationship. May it bring much joy to you both–and honor to God.

    • jubilare

      I hope he is right, and I feel he is right, but I don’t yet trust that he is right. I’ve known him for years, known him well for almost a year, and have been dating him for three months now. I’m slow to give my heart away, and I have no apologies to make for that. :)

      You’re absolutely right about emotions zig-zaging. And one thing I know is that making a commitment to someone involves honoring that commitment even when my emotions are telling me something different. That massive responsibility is part of what gives me pause and keeps me moving slowly. Because even if he is right, and God does bless this relationship, I am not always going to feel “in love,” but I will have to act in love even in those times. And if this relationship is not right, and not blessed, then that situation will be even harder.

      So I have to be rational in some ways, and I should trust those around me whom I know to be wise. But I also know that emotions do play a vital role, here, and that to some extent, I need to let them have their way.

      Thank you for your prayers! I will pray for your son and his fiance. ^_^

  • Krysta

    I’m so happy for you! I agree that emotions are scary, though. At least, I tend to be more rational than emotional and don’t really understand people who are the opposite way. But I think you are on the right track. We do need both to balance each other out. Sometimes responding logically isn’t actually the best response in a given situation. But following feelings without analyzing where they are coming from or where they might lead can also lead us into trouble!

    I think just the fact that you’re willing to take a skeptical look at yourself is a good sign. For reason and emotions to work together, we really need to be honest with ourselves. I am not wise in the ways of love, but I know that often when I sit down and try to figure out whether I should do something, I realize that I’ve only not done it because I’ve been bowing to my feelings of fear. But fear of failure or embarrassment isn’t a good reason not to do something.

    It’s not particularly pleasant admitting to myself that I was being cowardly, but it is necessary. And I think the opposite could occur. I think that reason could help you see that your emotions are actually leading you down the right way! And sometimes that can be scary, too, the idea that, wow, this whole situation might actually work out and major changes are going to happen. But, I find, once you name and confront your emotions, they’re so much easier to work with. They’re not leading you around anymore–you’re able to direct them more productively.

    I’ll be praying for you!

    • jubilare

      Thank you for prayers! They are deeply, deeply appreciated.

      Yeah, realizing that, if I didn’t at least try to see where this could go would leave me with massive “what ifs” and regrets helped push me past my initial desire to stay snug in my comfort zone. At the very least, even if things don’t work out and I have to deal with that pain, I won’t also deal with the pain of regret.

      There’s just so much to consider in figuring out whether or not another imperfect human can fit in our own imperfect lives. And with a clouded mind, it’s even harder.

  • Josh W

    Long time no talk. Can’t say I’m in any position of expertise on the subject, but I can definitely say a prayer for you.

    • jubilare

      Prayers are always appreciated! And I’m not sure there is such a thing as expertise in this kind of situation. People who think they’re experts are, in my experience, self-deluded. ;P

  • Brenton Dickieson

    There is lots that is terrifying in real life that is good, which I find really peculiar! So much for fight v. flight as applied to the animal kingdom: why does it apply to my normal choices?
    Still, my meanderings aside, a nice update to hear from you and best wishes! I think you know the answer to your own question: the more we chose to live, the more dangerous living is, which makes recovering from the risk that has gone bad even harder and more fulfilling. And so on.
    Maybe it’s rational, but there are more walls than one that we can hit as rational beings hurtling in a particular direction.
    C’est la vie, I’m afraid. But perhaps there is beauty in knowing that there is more than one kind of knowing.

  • Colleen Whitver

    Your blog posts add a dimension to our conversations. I love you. Praying always for God’s best work in your life. I know it is still in your future.

  • Aku

    I very much know what you mean – personally I prefer reason over emotion, a thought process that developed when being more emotionally open as a kid led to much heartache, but since I’ve learned to let it have a voice though it remains restrained.
    It’s not an easy balance to maintain at the best of times and often one gets the best of the other and no absolute is ever ideal.
    Best of luck with your new romantic journey, hope it takes you down a good road. Here too strangely I know how you feel – we’re about the same age and my love life has been… pretty similar. Though yeah, being a guy I’ve not had any stalkers (that I’ve ever know about anyway…) but it’s been disheartening at times and I worry that as time passes there’s a chance I’ll cease to even try or maybe even miss it if comes a-knocking. Only time will tell.
    You sound like you’re doing well with it all though, the fact that it’s on your mind is good I’d say, it means it all still carries weight and you’re still paying attention to emotion and reason.
    Cheers.

    • jubilare

      I probably know how you feel. I’d pretty much defensively given up hope, sort of, if I told myself it would never happen, then I’d stop hurting myself by wishing for it and I wouldn’t be disappointed. I’ve also spent a lot of time wondering what’s wrong with me, and why my affections were never returned. I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that these things don’t operate by equations, or at least not equations we’re capable of understanding. I know too many single people who are absolutely awesome, and people who are in relationships who really shouldn’t be to buy into the idea that if you’re single, something is “wrong.”

      All I can say is live your life now, and try to stay open. But in romance, as in every other thing in life, I think it’s a mistake to put living on hold until “this” or “that” happens to us. Our lives are right now, right this minute, and they are awesome, even if they are not what we expected that they would be. And who knows what will happen, good or bad? I’d just assumed I’d never experience this facet of human existence, and here I am. It may work out, or it may break my heart (or even both), but whatever happens, I sure didn’t see it coming.

      You’ve got this. Doubt’s part of thinking, but it’s best not to let it paralyze us.

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