I used to believe I had particular knowledge about the world because I didn't cry during notably heart-wrenching moments in acclaimed drama films. I didn't startle with my friends during tense horror scenes. And I didn't literally laugh out loud at the humor of many comedy films.
I mistook a lack of emotion to mean that my past had rendered me impenetrable by extreme feelings. Now that I look back, I realize my interpretation of my reactions to acted experiences was exactly backwards. I used to look pridefully on my ability not to exhibit outward emotion toward films. In reality, until last year, I watched the screen with equal parts conscious control of my outward reactions as well as a conscious separation of empathy towards the characters in stories.
This consciousness toward my emotions had been learned after years of being distant from my immediate family members. I grew up with three brothers, and parents who showed us little physical or verbal intimacy.
I certainly didn't intend to make this a post reprimanding parents who aren't intimate with their children - because for some children exhibiting that kind of emotion is simply uncomfortable. I did intend for this to be a post that highlights the possibility that intimacy or lack thereof between parent(s) and child(ren) may be the reason for a child's emotional distance in his or her future.
I didn't learn until recently that I'm much happier in life when I have people with whom I can express my emotions and be comfortable that they will be well-received. When I can talk about how I feel and also get an empathetic response, I experience a closeness I wasn't accustomed to growing up in a stoic family.
Learning anew my needs for physical and verbal intimacy with others has awakened in me a comfort with my newfound outward ability to express emotion when I see an experience with which I can sympathize. Whether this is in film or in real life, I no longer worry about expressing emotion that others can see. I understand that rather than take pride in my ability to hide what I feel, I should be proud that my many experiences allow me relate to others in a way that is fulfilling for me.
I know my reactions to others' experiences resemble emotional health gained by experience.