Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Can Your Feelings Even Lift, Bro? How I Learned to Flex My Emotional Muscles

Muscles grow through a process called hypertrophy. The term comes from the Greek words for “excess” and “nourishment.” In an 1898 self-help wellness text, “Common Salt” by Godfrey Gumpel, he defines hypertrophy as a combination of “huper, over, in excess or beyond; andtrophe, nutrition.” He goes on to suggest the term indicates the “morbid enlargement of any part of the body.” I must, then, be hypertrophic in my feelings, in my emotional center. It must be swollen and glittering, pink and oxygenated. For as long as I can remember, I have been told by various means that I am “too much.” That I have too many feelings, that I’m too sensitive, that I’m too different, too this, too that, just too much. I love too much. I hurt too much. The amount of feelings I have simply overwhelms, first myself, then everyone around me, like cold salt water filling up the lower compartments of the Titanic, then finally the staterooms, the bridge, the bow.

Using your muscles regularly causes temporary damage, small tears and floods of lactic acid that are the reason you struggle to run that last mile, to push yourself through those last few reps. This damage is why you feel sore the day after an afternoon of lifting heavy moving boxes, a trip to the gym, sex until dawn. Not only are muscles hypertrophic, they are resilient, bouncing back into shape, recovering quickly the more you use them, molding themselves into new forms that will let them work even more efficiently in the future. Our bodies learn to adapt to whatever we put them through. We are designed to grow out of manageable amounts of pain. Some kinds of damage are productive. Some we can learn from. Some make us stronger.

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