Cat Stevens’ song ‘How can I tell you I love you?’ has prompted today’s thoughts.
It is not just the expression of love that we hold back on, however; hatred and fear are also bottled up on far too many occasions.
When we fail to tell people the truth about how we feel, about the effect they have upon us emotionally, we are trammelling up our own integrity, free expression and aliveness. We become lesser. We become reserved and afraid, always metaphorically looking over our shoulders lest the demons of our true thoughts catch up with us.
We become so terrified of rejection, or ridicule, of having misread the situation, of over-reacting, of getting it wrong, that we zip our lips, allow our hearts to harden, to become encased in the ice of bitterness or the barbed wire of fear.
And yet, for our own emotional well-being, how can we not, eventually, open the heart’s vault and bestow its treasures? A valid gem of anger has just as much worth as its glitzier, more obviously acceptable, cousin, the rose-red love jewel.
What the hell are we waiting for? Death? Do we really want our innermost thoughts to be revealed only as dusty old journals, snatches of love letters and pressed flowers in a broken book only we ever touched? Isn’t it healthier to hold hands with real people, kiss real lips and share our warmth, chill, terror and ecstasy directly with those who touch us, one way or another, the most profoundly?
I say all this because I am one who has always hidden emotions under a thick carpet of absolute terror: terror, fundamentally, that people might find out that I am a girl under the tomboyishness, that I have a soft heart under the hard exterior, that having deep emotions makes me vulnerable.
There have been countless occasions, during my life, when I have been bursting to say, ‘I love you!’ or, ‘How dare you treat me like that?’ or, ‘What you just did really scared me.’ On only a handful of occasions have those vital, life-enhancing words ever come out.
I am one of those people who, when others hurt me and then say, ‘I hope you didn’t mind,’ will say, ‘No, of course not. I quite understand.’ And the tragic thing is that I do, genuinely, empathise with the other’s point of view – even when it has resulted in rejection, a sharp psychic wound or outright emotional abuse.
I can see that I am doing myself no good by this behaviour. I can seen, with awful clarity, that I often make myself ill by holding back from shouting out the so-called negative responses, that I allow cruelty because of my tendency not to say a firm, ‘No.’
But equally, my heart is precious and finite; it and I will not last forever – and the accreted layers of withheld love can burn and hurt and cause secret inner tears.
Far better to take that risk, to tell another that you loathe, love, fancy, detest or are petrified of him/her than to swallow down the poison of emotion’s dark side and be withered, one way or another, from the inside.