While growing up, I was somewhat of a “daddy’s girl” and wanted to know that he was there for me. Like many men in my experience, Dad didn’t have a great deal of enthusiasm for expressing feelings. Or talking about personal problems.
At the age of 21, while walking along the white sands of Fort Myers Beach in Florida at Christmas, I told him I felt that he didn’t support me. He was surprised. By “unsupportive” I meant that he didn’t initiate a discussion of matters that concerned me. He could sense that there were areas of my life with which I wasn’t pleased, or about which I might be troubled. But he “just let things be as they are.” As a result, I didn’t initiate discussions with him because I felt he didn’t want to hear or talk about these matters. I interpreted this lack of meaningful communication to mean that he was uninterested. Once he understood how I saw his silence, he broached topics that he thought may concern me without waiting for me to initiate conversation.
For my father to believe that he knows what I am concerned about so he doesn’t have to talk about them with me is, to me, an intellectualization. I believe that the purpose can be to avoid the expression of our genuine feelings vis-a-vis significant others, and in this case: women. Intellectualizing feelings, because the male energy thinks it that it knows all the answers or that the expression of feelings is really not important, can shut the door on important aspects of relationships that are significant to us.
I believe that fear is the most common motivator for not expressing one’s feelings, even to the point of continually remaining silent in the face of appropriate and healthy opportunities to express feelings. The result of fear is that we become self-absorbed and centralized into ourselves in an effort to guard our territory and habitual comfort zone. We fail to “reach out and touch someone” as the advertisement says. Eventually, in the face of an ongoing refusal to step up to the plate of our own lives, we become emotionally dead. And we may not even realize it!
The result? The daughter\woman may withdraw in some way. In the absence of any genuine expression of feelings on the father’s\man’s part — e.g. “I feel sad because it seems to me that . . .” — she may experience this lack of open, straightforward communication as keeping her at arm’s length. So she begins to stay at arm’s length in some way that may not be easily perceptible until it has gone on for a long time. Meanwhile, opportunities for a richer, more fulfilling relationship based on truth, have been ignored.
Again, my father’s habitual response to the expression of feelings was “Don’t wear [openly express] your heart [emotions, feelings] on your sleeve.”
Wrong, dear daddy. Of course, there can be a negative side to wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve if it involves emotional manipulation. But on the positive side, wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve is an expression of basic goodness.
Maggie Scott has been a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche since 1973 when she read “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism”. As she says, “I could ‘feel’ Trungpa’s enlightenment coming off the page. I had to meet this teacher and become one of his students. In January 1974 I traveled to Karme Choling in Vermont, met him, and got the kind of simple meditation instruction I had been looking for. This Tibetan monk became my main teacher until he died in 1987.” She further went along to study with Pema Chodron and has since become a student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. To enjoy more of her writings, visit her blog: www.getalifetime.com