It was official. Not one tear. Not even the slightest tingle. You know, the one that turns into that nasal burning sensation just before your eyes begin to fill up with water.
I’d made it a whole day without crying. Chalk one up to manhood. To emotional control. I did it.
I was 7.
I’m not sure where I got the idea that men and emotion don’t mix. It wasn’t overtly taught to me. But let’s face it, I don’t ever remember seeing Magnum P.I. bearing his soul to Higgins over a box of Kleenex. Not with that manly mustache.
So I kicked crying to the curb. I learned to take control of the underlying triggers that led towards those embarrassing emotional displays. I identified them, then I stopped feeling them. I numbed.
Dulling the pain of being picked last for kickball seems harmless enough. Perhaps even mature (the neighbor kids just couldn’t appreciate my special brand of awesomeness). But when those subliminally learned behaviors take root in how I interact (or struggle to interact) with my wife, my daughter, or the rest of the world around me, the negative effects of emotional compression begin to emerge.
When music is recorded in a professional studio, the final mixes are run through a digital compressor. While the full range of these sound waves can be experienced in an acoustically-treated room through a pair of $4,500 audio monitors, that same music wouldn’t sound right on my car stereo or over my built-in MacBook speakers. They can’t handle richness. The compressor smashes the sound waves into a narrow channel so the music can be better experienced on lower quality equipment.
I fear that’s the way a lot of us live. Compressed. Squished. Low-fi.
We’ve learned to protect ourselves from the lowest lows, and in turn, sacrifice the highest highs. We numb the pain, and we also stop feeling the joy.
And it’s understandable. Life can be excruciatingly painful. Tragic even. But I often wonder how much more beautiful it could be if we didn’t avoid feeling it. All of it. Uncompressed.
What do you think? Is that even possible? Healthy? Can we protect ourselves against pain without also dulling our ability to experience joy? Does God fit into this dialog, or is this just human psychology?