Cool as a Cucumber!

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression cool as a cucumber; who hasn’t? This cucumber dill salad got my mind rolling in that direction, then I read about a robbery at a local hotel. The woman who held down the victim was clad in a swimsuit. She’s a cool cucumber for sure.

A TV news story yesterday from the town where my sister lives showed a naked woman running across a gas station parking lot. She appeared more hot – I would say under the collar, but clearly there wasn’t one – and bothered unlike a deliberate streaker at a football game. It was speculated that her run, which eventually resulted in her tackle by a police safety, was prompted by a high level of drugs in her system making her behavior run more hot than cold.

These two news stories illustrate our general association of cool as a cucumber with someone who is unflappable, controlled, unemotional, brave, strong, or unaffected by circumstances we feel would be intolerable or unbearable as opposed to someone who can’t control their emotions in the heat of the moment. When a doctor calmly reviews our child’s grave injuries, determines the best course of action, and looks us in the eye as he gives us bad news, we admire this quality. When a predator faces a TV camera showing no empathy, sorrow, or remorse, we feel chilled to the bone. Our minds struggle to understand; our solar plexus tightens in fear; our spirit senses a disconnect.

Detaching from our emotions serves to put us in a state in which we can function under extreme or dangerous circumstances without falling apart. It also removes us from our humanity, our reality, our truth. Hopefully, only momentarily until we’ve pulled the victim from underneath a car, or dressed our child’s severe wounds.

If we are exposed to traumatic situations repeatedly, dissociation from our feelings may become our most comfortable state because to stay engaged would be excruciating. To the casual observer, this can make us look like a cool cucumber. It may get us promoted at work, allow us to perform our duties under pressure or make tough decisions without flinching.

With the prevalence of electronic devices that can capture our image and transmit it at any time, we’re encouraged to wear our work mask any time we’re in public so we won’t get caught acting like a hot chili pepper.

This protects our jobs. This protects our families. On the surface it seems to be good advice, but we must recognize that it has a similar requirement in that to wear the mask we must set aside or hide our real feelings.

Why do I mention any of this? I know it may seem like an odd rumination for a post. Perhaps it is on its own, but the relationship of this content to the process of healing our wounds, reconnecting our bodies with our emotions, and feeding our spirit so we can thrive makes the topic relevant.

When we are distanced from our emotions, we cannot trust our perceptions and this leaves us feeling wary, on guard, afraid. Fear weaves it’s own limiting structure that often keeps us from being able to face the truth we know about ourselves. Without our truth, we question our ability to be brave, to face difficulty, to persevere, so many of us become numb and stuck. We look like the perfectly brave cool cucumber while longing for a connection with a chili pepper so hot it makes us cry.

Reconnecting with how we really feel is a messy, ugly process. It requires honesty, bravery, self-acceptance, and looking like anything but a cool cucumber. I happen to think it’s worth it.

How about you? Would you rather be a cool cucumber or a red-hot chili pepper?

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