Ryan Berg is a former U.S. Marine Corps combat infantryman and deployed twice to Iraq. In 2004, he was with 2/24 Echo company, Weapons Platoon, in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. In 2006, he served with 1/14 Task Force Military Police and was in Fallujah, Ramadi and Al Asad.
He studied rhetoric at UC Berkeley and completed his MA in Leadership Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California. He is most interested in understanding the ways that the system of patriarchy in America affects male military Veterans – and argues that this system is fundamental in perpetuating suicides in the Veteran community. He is married to his wife Nataly, and lives in Concord, CA.
Editors note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s own.
In the world of feeling you experience the good and the bad, the happy and the unhappy, pleasure and pain. Contrary to just registering such impressions mentally, emotional experience really touches you. Since your struggle is primarily for happiness, and since immature emotions lead to unhappiness, your secondary aim becomes the avoidance of unhappiness. This creates the early, mostly unconscious conclusion: “If I do not feel, then I will not be unhappy.” In other words, instead of taking the courageous and appropriate step to live through negative, immature emotions in order to afford them the opportunity to grow and thus become mature and constructive, the childish emotions are suppressed, put out of awareness and buried, so that they remain inadequate and destructive, even though the person is unaware of their existence.
“If I do not feel then I will not be unhappy.” Wow. We often avoid feeling because we think that will lead to unhappiness. What a heartbreaking conclusion. When you’re alone, do you ever wish you could be happier? Does it ever feel like you’re chasing happiness, without ever finding true fulfillment? I think that’s because we often place so little value on our “emotionality”. When we begin to recognize the truth of and absorb the following statement, I think we will begin to place more value on this aspect of ourselves (taken from same article as above):
The capacity to experience feeling is synonymous with the capacity to give and receive happiness. To the degree you shy away from any kind of emotional experience, to that extent you also close the door to the experience of happiness.
So, yes, thank God for emotional pain. Without that pain, I wouldn’t have a heart. Without a heart, I wouldn’t be alive. I am learning that I need to feel that pain in order to have direction and joy in my life.