April 29, 2021

Your inner life is an emotional training ground

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Have you ever felt shamed for being a highly intuitive, introspective person?

Do people give you weird looks for being in touch with the hidden depths of human nature?

Been there. It’s a shitty feeling. Because there’s nothing inherently offensive about that kind of behavior. You’re just being your normal, sensitive self. And some people don’t know what to do with that.

There was this bully at my elementary school who made fun of me all the time for having an inner life. During lunch or recess, I’d be doing something as simple as pondering, writing or making art, and he would take it as a personal affront to his identity.

Reflecting on those memories as an adult breaks my heart. Not only for my nine year old self, but for the bully too. Maybe what he needed were some crayons and a big blank canvas.

If you can relate to that experience, let me say something that might give you peace:

People who are intuitive and introspective are more typically more resilient than others. If you have the natural ability to tune in to your inner states, subconscious feelings and impulses, and to seek to understand yourself deeply, then you will probably bounce back from rejection, failure and suffering better and faster.

Frankl famously found in his research that sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may suffer much pain, but despite their delicate constitution, the damage to their inner selves ended up being ultimately less. Only in this way, he wrote, could one explain the apparent paradox that concentration camp prisoners of a less hardy makeup often seemed to survive life better than did those of a robust nature.

The key is to think of your inner life as an emotional training ground. Let me share another example from my young life.

Songwriting is my favorite creative activity, bar none. Since the ripe age of twelve, it’s always been the dependable exercise to process my thoughts and feelings. Even the dozens and dozens of terrible songs I wrote are still good to me, since they were containers for a specific family of human feelings. There is no song of mine that didn’t metabolize my experience in some way and deepen my relationship to my inner life.

That muscle memory pays dividends today. In ways that have nothing to do with songwriting. My ability to discover what is authentic in myself, my skill of understanding and expressing the truth of the moment, that helps me recover from the inevitable piles of shit life throws at me.

I’m proud of these talents. They’re wildly useful to me.

And one cool benefit of employing those talents is, they inspire others to do the same. When you express your ability to be sincere and authentic about who you, it gives others permission to do the same. Even if they’re not naturally an intuitive or introspective person, there’s something compelling about treating your life as an emotional training ground that goes beyond personality type.

Are you in tune with the peaks and valleys of your inner world?

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