I look at my children and their capacity to love openly, completely, just letting the raw emotion bubble to the surface. Their joys and frustrations are so obvious and palpable. They aren’t throwing up the smoke screens, fakes, and armor that I so often recognize in myself and other adults that I encounter.
I could argue that this can be a good thing, that all of that armor isn’t really armor, but maturity and more control over our emotions. My psychology training would largely agree. We develop emotional regulation over time and become more equipped to deal with difficult emotions. We are making great developmental progress, right? We well-adjusted adults have the emotional game figured out, right?
Not so fast. I fear that with that control over difficult emotions, we lose the ability to freely feel the joy and love and wonderfully, wishfully un-difficult emotions that life has to offer with the unabashed abandon of a child. We have been disappointed, let down, and heartbroken by joy and love in the past and we aren’t about to run at them without our armor.
The sadness to this scenario is that, just because we have been hurt by past loves or had our hopes dashed when we were really looking forward to something, does not mean that it will happen in this instance or in the next one, but the armor that we put up to shield our hearts from that potential disappointment will keep us from fully feeling the joy. That armor will make it harder for us to open our hearts to a new love and having that armor in place reduces our chances of successfully fostering that love. Love can’t grow to its full potential with a shield in place. All of the goodness just bounces off and falls at your feet.
How beautiful would it be if we could drop that shield? We could let all of those amazing, extraordinary emotions in and truly feel the love and joy that life has to offer, all the while trusting that if things go wrong then all of that maturity and emotional control and ability that we have developed to deal with the difficult stuff of life will kick in.
Because the truth is they will. We can handle any of the potential disappointments that life throws our way. The real question is, can we afford to shield ourselves from all of the love and joy and goodness? I why would we want to?