August 25, 2021

Crunchy

My friends and I have a funny way of describing when someone’s in a bad mood. We call it being "crunchy.” Something’s happened, and they’re stiff, inflexible, noticeably louder (or quieter) and they don’t want to engage.

What makes some people more “crunchy” than others? Or what makes certain seasons more susceptible to crunchiness (really stretching that term today)?

It comes down to expression — or the lack of expressing what you're feeling.

First, Things Happen
Throughout each day, things are happening in your world. Some of those things are in your control, but most of them aren’t. Inevitably, you will have feelings about those things — anger, sadness, joy, fear, excitement, etc.

Some of those feelings are socially acceptable to express. It’s great to see someone happy or excited. But fear? Anger? Sadness? It’s harder to find space to release those in a healthy way when others are present, especially if those people are the source of your feelings.

Duct Taping the Bottle
So we learn to repress what we're experiencing, especially the bad feelings. We bury, hide, or mask our emotions. It's like shoving them into a plastic bottle and plastering a piece of duct tape on top.

But life continues to happen. More pressure is added to that sealed bottle. Things get uncomfortable inside of us. And externally, we start getting shorter, or we look for any type of pressure release that eases what we're feeling (usually an activity we like to hide).

Eventually, a big event happens and the bottle explodes. All of those repressed feelings come bursting out of the side— explosive anger or big, dramatic decisions.

But there's another way.

Expression > Repression
As you learn, grow, and experience life, you can look for healthy ways to express yourself. Healthy expression includes communication — speaking your mind in a safe space that you've found or created with the people you love. It also includes getting in sync with your body: running, lifting, dancing, playing, etc. By tying your emotions to physical activity and honest conversation, you're saving yourself and the people around you from the damage of repression and those messy sideways explosions.

The hard part is making this a practice. We've become so used to being "nice" or “letting things go" that we've just built bigger, stronger bottles to contain our feelings. Because of that we're carrying around a lot of extra weight (aka: crunch) and that's keeping us from the joy and creativity that comes with healthy expression.

Accepting Where You are
Are you feeling crunchy? If so, It’s ok. You’re not bad, or wrong, or messed up. You’re simply feeling something strongly, and that's a good thing. What do you need to express today? Try getting into your body with physical movement. And then think about what you need to say and to whom. If you need a healthy starting point for sharing what you’re feeling you could start with:

  • Facts: What happened or is happening? Try to only share the objective events. What would a camera be able to record?
  • Story: What’s the story you’re telling yourself as you replay those events?
  • Feelings: How does that story make you feel? (angry, sad, scared, happy, etc)
  • Wants: What do you want to happen next? Share everything that comes to mind. These aren’t demands — they’re a way for someone to know you better.

None of this is easy work. It's a lifelong practice that will pave the way for being fully alive as you learn, grow, and pursue your work in community with others.

PS: Special thanks to Jim Dethmer who taught me many of these principles.

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