I was raised in a polite Catholic church. This is why, when I had a God freak out, at 12 years old, people were… confused.
The kids around me walked away. The adults circled my shaking body and tried to settle me down as quickly as possible.
Most mainstream notions of spirituality tell us that spirit is seen through the stillness of Savasana, hands clasped in prayer and the tender, soft spoken words of a wise guru.
This is partly why when we encounter very loud, or physical reactions to the Divine, we either freeze or run for the hills. (Some of us were raised in communities that celebrated dancing in the aisles and bold emotional responses, but generally, I don’t think this is the most common experience.)
In fact, this isn’t just about people who are having strong reactions to the sacred. It’s about anyone (especially women) having strong reactions to ANYTHING.
Tears in public. Raised voices in the grocery store. Anger in the face of racial profiling.
Our world generally doesn’t support people feeling BIG in public.
When faced with the discomfort of someone else’s big emotionality, some of us will find an excuse to leave immediately. Others act like it’s no big deal; like they see this kind of thing all the time. Oh darling, I’m so spiritually evolved that I’m entirely unfazed by any of this.
If a friend is half-awed / half-terrified because they swear they just saw an angel or they’re convinced the universe is telling them to get a divorce… Or if they’re grieving the loss of a beloved pet, or trembling at the news of yet another hate crime, there’s only one thing to do, really.
Just BE with them.
Don’t force physical affection, if that doesn’t feel deeply sincere and wanted. Don’t quote some famous author’s trite explanation of grief or suffering. Don’t rationalize why anger isn’t helpful and offer them techniques to ‘get over it’. And for the love of all things holy, do NOT tell them to quiet down because it’s making other people uncomfortable.
In that moment, your job as their friend is to support and love them, not to monitor their social appropriateness.
It’s okay for grown men to act like barbarians when their football team loses, but a woman crying in public needs to suck it up?
Whether your friend’s big emotional reaction is about the end of her marriage or the voice in her meditation that told her to quit her job, the details don’t matter. What matters is that her heart is in a place of deep resonance. She is feeling all the feels. This is a sacred moment. BE in it.
Should you say something or be silent? Should you put your arm around her or give her space? Should you take her home for a cup of tea, or stay right where you are and let the moment unfold? Trust that you’ll know what to do. Ask her what she needs.
There is no script or formula to follow when people decide to let their surface selves reflect the tumult happening in their depths.
There is only your willingness to ALLOW this person’s experience to emerge as they need it to. Even if that is socially uncool. Even if people are watching. This is not the time for image management. This is about the blooming happening in your friend, and the comfort and connection you’re offering her, as she navigates that.
Just BE there.