Last week Terry Gross interviewed comedian Michael Ian Black on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” In the show, Black talks about how he lost his father at the age of twelve, and he opens up on the role comedy plays in his emotional life:
“I think comedy for many, many people is a coping mechanism. And as a kid I was incredibly prone to just bursts of emotion and tears and hypersensitivity. And I realized that I couldn’t live my life like that. And I sort of started sublimating that to a point where — now it’s hard for me to express emotion. And comedy is an outlet for that.”
Admitting to how you sublimate your real feelings and how that damages your ability to express yourself – is no easy feat.
It’s not comfortable or admirable.
It doesn’t showcase the stoic stereotype of masculinity with any charm or glory.
But it’s real. And it’s honest.
And emotionally intelligent. Like right-on-the-mark intelligent.
Gross: “That’s really funny because you were saying that you were kind of hypersensitive. And your comic persona is kind of the opposite?”
Gross: “Is it fun to play that person who you play on TV?”
Black: “Well, it can be. I mean, I think the word snarky has often been applied to me – in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable, because I don’t think of myself as snarky, even though I guess I probably come off that way. Because I still see myself as this hypersensitive kid – who, everything touches. I feel like… I feel too much.”
When feeling your emotions feels like it’s too much, the logical thing to do is turn down the volume, or sublimate.
But the sorry side is that tampering with the controls will have negative consequences later in life. Consequences that impact your emotional health, your communication, and your closest relationships.
Painful feelings can really hurt — you are feeling them after all.
But they are there for a reason. They are there to keep you connected to the world. They are they so you can express them and follow them back to any dysfunctional beliefs they may have come from. They are there for you to grieve as you need to grieve.
The pain isn’t bad.
It’s painful. It hurts. It takes water from your eyes without asking.
But it isn’t bad.