A Natural Facade

I watched a few episodes of Dexter a while ago. I was doing a drug-trial to get some extra cash (though I promise those drugs had no influence on what I’m about to write) and to pass time I went through a season or two.

See what intrigued me about Dexter was not the blood and gore nor the vigilante justice but rather the way he is. This emotionless, psychopathic man who never feels … anything. Everything anyone thinks or sees of him in regard to demeanor, intent, thoughts and feelings is a carefully constructed facade that Dexter has practiced since his childhood. And this is, sociologically, a bad thing because it means no love, no remorse, nothing.

Now this doesn’t come across as overly odd to me, this facade. I’m no psychopath, I’ll be sure to put that out there right now. I definitely have emotion and feeling that stem from places far deeper than my own consciousness. But my query comes from this:

If I am able to effectively control a lot of my emotions, choose which ones I give action to and which ones will govern me, does that not mean in terms of the others (the ignored, suppressed and forgotten tides of feeling) I place a facade over them? If I am angry at someone and simply ignore that until it no longer occupies my thoughts have I not successfully muted this? And in doing so do I then place an image over it to project a mask of myself to those around me?

Because I occasionally have felt that I do this. It’s how I can control emotion. I used to be a boy completely over-run and oppressed by my own desires and feelings but I learnt to control this and one way I did so was to simply ignore it and “put on a brave [or otherwise appropriate] face”. The feelings would subside and then my conscious mind had control enough to make a rational decision with regard to the situation.

And we all do this, to some extent. If you have a basic control on your emotions then you must. If you’ve ever been accused of bottling up your emotions then you’ve done this, albeit poorly since you were called out on it.

What truly irks me is that you get better at it. Continuing to suppress your emotions in favour of logical thinking and hard-line rationality becomes so easy that often when an emotion springs forward into your brain it’s easy to brush it off. A sudden rise of jealously before you shrug and inwardly murmur “no, there’s no point in that”. The rush of anger as someone cuts you off in traffic only for a voice to reason “calm down” as you smile toward the asshole driver. There are two ways for this to go; it either builds until you can no longer hold anything else in and suddenly you’re on the six o’clock News for your road-rage or you get better at it and you barely even notice the emotions coming to surface before they disappear again.

So here’s a tip that I’ll attribute to NWA: Express yourself. Before you either can’t or you can’t help it.


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One response to “A Natural Facade”

  1. abi dawson says :

    I’ll first say that emotion repression is, as you say, a dangerous road to go down. I have a friend who started repressing his emotions as a kid and got to the point where he just didn’t have them at all anymore, on a physiological level. And then when he got them back it was overwhelming and disruptive. So in some ways it startles me to hear you express this.
    That aside, there is a “healthy version” of emotion repression, called mindfulness. Mindfulness is one of those psychological constructs that uses a blanket term to capture something you might not guess just for the name, and there are different components of it (we study this at work sometimes). The component most people know about or think of when they hear the term is something like being in the moment, noticing what’s around you. But there is another which I think is also really important, which is called “non-reactivity to inner experience”. It’s something like experiencing and recognizing the emotion without allowing it to deepen or overtake you.
    I, of course, am absolutely terrible at this. Mindfulness is a documented treatment for depression, and I’m trying to work on it, but I am hugely reactive to my inner experiences. In fact, I’m hyper-vigilant about them. You’re not like that, and I admire that in you. You recently told me that I should try to step back from my negative feelings when they aren’t helpful, and I see that expressed again above.
    I hope this is helpful in some way, I mostly wanted to let you know that there is a way to be non-reactive that doesn’t come at the sacrifice of your humanity.

    They say that meditating makes you better at it.

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