Accepting Monster Feelings

[Postscript Feb. 9, 2015: Also see my Psychology Today post, “Creativity’s Monsters: Making Friends with Complexity.”]

Last night, all of my dreams were filled with conflict and confrontation. By turn, my students were confronting me and yelling, then my family, then people I work with. I mentioned this to my husband over our morning coffee, and he said, “Me, too!” Then we remembered what movie we had watched last night before going to bed: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1966 Movie Trailer:


I hadn’t seen the film in years (and had seen it only once before), and this time around I was hyper-aware of how uncomfortable I am around intense confrontation, even when it’s fictional. At the same time, I consciously was watching the film from the perspective of story-telling, which helped to blunt my discomfort somewhat.

My work in the field of giftedness has taught me this:

“The most important thing we can do to nurture emotionally intense gifted children is to accept their emotions: they need to feel understood and supported. Explain that intense feelings are normal for gifted children. Help them to use their intellect to develop self-awareness and self-acceptance.” ~ From “Emotional Intensity in Gifted Children,” by Leslie Sword

The same can be said for writers. One thing that sometimes holds me back from writing as powerfully as I can is that I haven’t always accepted all of my emotions, whether because of my “nice girl” Midwestern upbringing or my temperament. In any case, I’ve begun to use my mornings pages practice as a way to acknowledge the full range of what I’m feeling, if only to myself, even when I’m afraid that my feelings make me a bit of a monster.

George: “You’re a monster. You are!”

Martha: “I’m loud, and I’m vulgar, and I wear the pants in the house, because somebody’s got to! But I am not a monster. I’m not!”

Are there any emotions that you shy from, either in real life or in your writing? Do movies or books or plays help you to tap into those feelings?

Click on the poster below for A. O. Scott’s recent “Critics’ Picks” video review of the movie:

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Movie Poster

4 thoughts on “Accepting Monster Feelings

  1. Harming the elderly. I have no qualms about killing off characters if the plot needs it but I simply can’t harm any character over seventy. Even having people angry at them gives me the willies. (Probably something Freudian or whatnot.)

  2. Back in the ’60’s I went to see this movie. It was hell, but it was also riveting. Many years later I had my daughter watch it with me and then told her if you ever get in a relationship like that, run as far away from it as you can. She looked at me and said, that’s my mother. She moved out of the house at 16. Eight years after she moved out, (that be today), we are still a family, still struggling, and still learning how to love one another!

    • Wow, what a powerful memory. Now wonder it has stayed with you. One of the things I like about the movie is how the end shows the unexpected complexity of the couple’s relationship, causing me, as a viewer, to regret my severe judgments. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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