The calm to hide a storm

I wrote this on facebook but then realized I didn’t want to lose it, so I’m posting it here too.

Do you ever assess yourself as if looking from the outside, and wonder at pieces of you? For instance, I am weirdly calm in emergencies. I’m not the person running around freaking out; I’m the person who’s instantly identifying the problems so I can figure out the solutions. But that also means I probably seem heartless to other people in the first moments of being told someone is missing, or someone is in the hospital, or this person is sick, or that person was in an accident. I don’t freak out because you don’t know what will happen. It may be fine, it may not. All you can do is try to identify the ways to stack the cards in positivity’s favor.

But afterward– after I’m away from other people and the outcome is clear, that’s where I have that moment of release. Shuddering tears, perhaps, or sudden harsh breaths, like releases of all the air in my lungs at once, again, again, because I didn’t realize I was holding my breath, I didn’t realize how much I was controlling my body, until I knew I didn’t have to do it anymore.

I wonder, sometimes, where I develop these reactions. I think this part of me is because I never want to hurt or worry other people, and I want to help. So if I hear of something bad, I’m instantly trying to find the ways to fix it, or to help mitigate the disaster. I’m instantly aware that panic will only make it worse and will only scare everyone else more so I have to be as calm and strong as I can be, as casual or darkly humorous if needed, to keep everyone on task and distracted from all the ominous What If’s of the world. But even though I cut out the heart in the first moment, even though I go all brain, it doesn’t stop my heart from feeling in the background. And so, when I’m alone and I know it won’t hurt anyone, I let that fear or pain be acknowledged so the denial doesn’t become my own tragedy; my own self-prophetical pain.

I wonder what you’re supposed to do in those situations. And I wonder if, to others, my automatic reaction to shut off emotions and be calm is more comforting or frightening in the greater scheme of the world. Does it seem strange to them that someone who spends so much time talking and smiling and joking doesn’t seem to care about something bad happening, or does that inconsistency make them stop and reassess their own emotions? Am I helping or am I hindering, and in the end does it even matter? Because that is my automatic, instant reaction and I can’t change it. I don’t know if I would want to, even if I tried.

I think about these things sometimes, because psychology and human behavior is interesting to me, even when it’s my own reactions. Do you do the same?

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