Our Culture Often Does Not Value Feelings
Old cabin located at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Most of us seem to be deficient in “feelings”!
Here is a true story from about 1992. I would go to a certain Gainesville donut shop nearly every day. Often a group of seniors sat around the counter and they met nearly every day too. On this one day, someone announced to the group that he was going to the mountains for two weeks for a vacation trip. [Gainesville, Florida; he meant the southern Appalachian mountains.]
published also in Illumination.
He left. Two weeks later I came into the cafe and there he was, back from his trip. I then asked him how his trip was. He replied, “Trip went OK, the car only broke down once”! Then silence! I then tried to prime the pump by asking leading questions like, “when you walked out of the motel room at 7 am and then saw the rising sun come up over the mountains, what did you feel”?
I asked again. “If you saw an old mountain cabin built years ago, did this invoke anything from you?”
I gave up.
A week later he announced to the group that he was moving back to his small city in Iowa where he came from, Gainesville was too liberal for him.
Whew! I thought about this experience for years. Where were his feelings? Feelings would connect experiences with life and then recalled. Alas, I have heard many northern men say, “my wife does all of my feelings for me”!
Was he just a conservative old man who wants to return to his 1920–1950 youth? Maybe.
Recently I saw *another* layer to this! One reason, I think, that he could not tell me about his trip is that he lacked the words to describe his trip. Many of the words and ideas that could describe a trip in the mountains are all, or somewhat, feeling-based. They do not teach us all to feel in school! Thus he probably was very feeling-illiterate. If he had feelings, he could not express them well. Worse, men have been taught for many, many years not to feel! In fact, “Up North”, and even here in my city, any man who feels often thinks he is turning feminine or even gay! Deny those feelings! Thus the brain does not develop the nerve paths nor the processing areas for feeling. Thus he might not be aware that he *has* feelings about the mountains and if he did, he could not express them to others.
Too, feelings are often seen as a hindrance to progress, often “progress”, today, is spelled “progre$$! Spoils the cash flow. Get it done *now*, fast, quick, quick!
Feelings sometimes are seen as a quality in poor people or marginalized people, like
Blacks, the very young, and the mountain people who love country music. Or the artists too, the ones that often are “starving”!
So there you are, a top CEO, buying a condo on the 15th floor of a 20-story condo at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The window overlooks the sea. But this window cannot be opened, the condo is air-conditioned, and none of the windows can be opened. He cannot hear the sea or its birds either: no plaintive cries of the seagulls! In effect, he is utterly cut off from what he came here for! He might as well have bought a large screen TV and projected an image of the coast on it.
Feelings connect. Thus, in that condo example above, there is no connection to life, no feelings rise to awareness *to* connect. Thus I sense in some of these people a sort of vague depression, a depression with an aura of “something is missing in my life”. Some people thus have a pure out vacuum in their lives.
In the South, and sometimes elsewhere, there are master storytellers. They have a rich feeling nature and a feeling too for awe, mystery, wonder, and Spirit. They also use analogies and metaphors a lot. Most people, today, seem to want directness and “get to the point”!
I write this article just to show my slant on the Problem of a lack of feelings in this country. They do not teach us in school about “feelings”. What is not taught is how to become aware of our feelings, then be able to process our feelings, then to communicate a feeling-charged experience to other people.
Thus my “old man” example above might not be very “guilty” of not being able to express feelings. No one gave to him the proper tools. He might like to tell people of his experiences, but cannot.
Then, just what *are* the proper tools to have a person become aware of their feelings and then to express them, not only to others but to oneself as well?!
I am not a psychologist type of counselor. I tell stories, as I am not really one of those high-level abstract professors or of the material-orientated Achievers.
I tend to be a Country Boy, but with a good slathering of book learning on top of me. I cannot tell you all how to become aware of feelings and to express them.