Dear Derek, Sometimes I feel as if my capacity to feel genuine emotion is stunted. Occasionally I feel as if I go through life with a set of pre-meditated responses to those around me, carefully calculated to achieve the result I desire. I haven't cried in a very long time, even after deaths of those close to me, and fear that I have lost some part of my ability to feel joy as well. Do you have any advice on how to confront this fear of emotional falseness? - - MH, VT.
Dear MH, First and foremost, I must say that you may have already stumbled upon the reason that you may be feeling (or not feeling) the way you have described. Fear. My best guess is that you are afraid of being yourself. If you are walking around with a set of pre-meditated responses that give you "the result" you desire, this may be because you want to please those who you are interacting with. Making those around you happy is a healthy ambition. However, making these people happy by telling them what they want to hear is damaging to your own identity and sanity.
First, I encourage you to face your fear head on. You are probably a person that puts others first if given the opportunity. The next opportunity that you have, try putting yourself first. If you could, regardless of what others think, how would you respond to this situation?
Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating narcissism, just simple behavior modification. Also, from reading this, it may come across like this is an easy transition to make. However, I want to make it clear that it is certainly not an easy task to change your thinking patterns and behaviors. It is through dedication and passion that you can achieve these things.
Getting back on track: You need to start living your own life, a life full of joy and full of accomplishment. The only way that you can live the good life is by giving up on the people pleaser mantra. Let God control your life, but don't let any other human lead it.
Extremely simplified, our personal identity is a mix of our own perception of ourselves, along with the perceptions of our close friends and family about who we are. I think that you are letting half of your identity govern your entire perception of yourself. What I mean is, you are letting the perceptions of those close to you define your identity. You are missing both your own perceptions and who you are in Christ. Incorporate both of these back into your identity for a more realistic understanding of yourself.
The emotional falseness that you feel is a direct result of being fake to yourself and to those around you. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for what you believe and what you think is right and wrong. Then, and only then will you feel like the falseness has subsided from your conscious thinking.