To Be a Better Person

Imagine you took a test one day and realized that you could taste better than almost anyone else. Your tastebuds were really really good at their job, and because of this, most of your life had been–and would continue to be–a bit tough because you could taste flavors that others couldn’t. That lemon zest? Too sour for you. That olive? Too bitter. Even candies and chocolates were uncomfortable in their sweetness. Everything was amplified, and you came to possess that knowledge.

Would you willingly keep engaging with flavors you know are so strong they make your eating experience less enjoyable?

Now imagine that instead of “taste,” I said “feel.” Imagine you–like me–could feel better than almost anyone else. Only instead of “better,” you meant “more,” as in more acutely and more deeply. The lows hurt more deeply, and the highs were much more euphoric. Your whole life had been what felt many times like a rollercoaster of feelings, and only when you conscientiously chose what behaviors you engaged in did you feel like you were able to have a reasonably enjoyable emotional experience.

It took me over 25 years to fully accept that my own emotional experience is different than other people. I still resent it sometimes, like someone accepts but still resents a different difficulty in their life. I see others living cavalierly. They lie, they cheat, the knowingly and unknowingly hurt other people. They do things I can’t do, because if I did, I would be wrecked about them for months. They fall into love, experience the utter joy of bliss, and I stand and watch them negotiate life’s emotional swells while it looks like they barely dip their toes in the water. I learned long ago that this isn’t entirely true–everyone feels emotions, it’s just that not everyone feels them the way I do. Not everyone can be easily ruled by their emotions.

People have told me I shouldn’t think so much, as though there’s this magical connection between my willpower, my thoughts, and my emotions. That’s like telling my lungs not to breathe, or my eyes not to see. My brain is designed to think, and my thoughts directly relate to my emotions. My emotions exist because human beings were built with an emotional neural pathway. I can’t turn that off, or turn it down. I can just avoid situations where I set myself up to think “too much” or feel “too much,” or where the people I surround myself with make me feel like my emotions aren’t part of who I am. I don’t feel like my life is any worse this way, in fact I think it’s better. I’m a better person because I feel so much–so maybe my emotional system does just work “better.”

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