All in the feeling

“You may be pleased to know that the professional confirmed most of what you had said.” His words took me aback… it sounded suspiciously like…
“You’re saying I was right?” It is almost unheard of for my son to compliment me or admit such a thing. Cooking, perhaps… ‘Mum-made’ being apparently infinitely better than ‘homemade’…but…
“No!” he says with an expression of utter disgust, “I’m saying you weren’t wrong.” That is as close as it will ever get, voluntarily and excluding the occasional slip.

I will respond with either a reciprocal quip or a melodramatic gesture. We know what we mean, even though we have, on a good many occasions, shocked innocent bystanders with our banter… a mutual exchange of grandiose insults that can appear, according to one dear friend, to border on the abusive. It is all in the tone and intent and, critically, the feel we have for each other and the knowledge of the underlying love that we seldom express verbally in any other way.

It is an odd thing, when I think about it. My sons and I are all very ready to reach out a hand or give a hug when needed… we all shed tears when moved by emotion or beauty; you would not call us overtly tactile in our demonstrations of affection, yet nor are we reserved. Yet when it comes to words and emotions, three articulate people seem to have trouble actually saying what we mean. Partly, I think, it is a northern thing, but there is more to it than that.

Speaking for myself I can write what is in my heart. It was even easier in French long ago when the words seemed one step removed from reality… or in poetry where the flowery form allows a more evocative use of language. But to come straight out with it, to find those words which open one heart to another, face to face and eye to eye? I can’t do it. So I revert to humour and the vague insults, and so do my sons.

I’ve tried to analyse it… where did it come from and why have I passed this along to my children? I suppose an undemonstrative family laid the foundations. I cannot ever remember being hugged as a child, though I must have been. I can only remember having to hold hands when out walking and that was for safety. Yet there was no lack of love, it was simply shown in different ways and it was seldom spoken. With my own sons there were always cuddles, snuggled up reading together, an armful of child either side. There were always hugs. There still are. Yet there were times when the emotions were too raw, when there was too much grief to put into words, for words made the hurt real and left us wide open and vulnerable. Perhaps it was then that our words became guarded and fear stilled out tongues?

Three words that say way too little, but have to serve to say so much; overused so often, under-meant too frequently and very often coming with a question that demands the reassurance of reciprocity instead of being simply given and accepted as a gift… we seldom use them to each other. They slip out occasionally, taking us by surprise in moments of spontaneous affection when emotion overrides the guarded tongue, and finds expression in the simple phrase. Yet perhaps there is no need to verbalise what we know in the traditional manner. I used to envy those with the facility to turn a beautiful phrase at the right moment. These days I would rather ‘be there’ and do the right thing rather than say it. We are not alone in this reluctance to repeat a mantra of affection until it loses all meaning. When it matters, the words come, and it never matters what those words may be when they come straight from the heart. Words, after all, are but a small part of the way we communicate heart to heart.

Just the three of us

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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41 Responses to All in the feeling

  1. davidprosser says:

    Perhaps it is a Northern thing because that’s how I work too and my daughter back to me and yet there’s no doubting the love between us.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Odd how it works that way in so many families – mine too. Tho’ I manage to overcome it a bit with my friends, I still realize it is easier to tease them affectionately that to simply come out and say how very much I care for them. hmmmm . . . Loved the photo at the end, btw.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ritu says:

    My family are firmly huggers, but saying that, I know its not the only way to convey emotions and feelings. My in-laws are not physically demonstrative, and they definitely aren’t verbally eloquent in conveying their feelings, but its the little actions, and things they do that make us all know how much they care.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tric says:

    We have it both ways here. I find words easy and comforting my other half is a man of very few emotional words. My children speak freely to me but mimic my other half when speaking with him.
    The same is true with a hug. They drape themselves about me but awkwardly lean towards their dad.
    Yet he is a free talker and easy hugger towards me too.
    I never noticed this until I read your post. Now I’m fascinated by it.
    But it does demonstrate there are many ways to communicate as I’d consider my children close to their dad and relaxed in his company.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      I think they have the key to it… you respond in ind, as long as you know the truth behind the emotions and your children obviously do. Which is why my sons call me such creative things occasionally 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This speaks volumes to me Sue. My family, whether it be my siblings or my children, we can all communicate on these different levels. We know what our tones and words mean. We know the nuances and changes for moods and situations. And here I thought it was just us….. 🙂


  6. Jennie says:

    Excellent post. So right, and well said.


  7. We can all relate, Sue. In my birth family, the words never came, the intention was understood. There was only one time, and I’m not sure he even noticed, but I surely did. I gifted my father with a box of cigars when no one else in the family would, after his heart surgery and against all doctor’s orders. I knew he was still sneaking them, so I went for it. He looked at me, aged 40 + and said ‘I love you, girl’. First and only time. Ever. Even if it was a slip of the tongue, it counted, for me. 💘 Thanks for a post we all understand.


  8. Both my son and daughter are like that. A good-ribbing, but when it comes to supporting each other, there’s no doubt.


  9. Eliza Waters says:

    It was that way when I grew up. You were ‘supposed to know’ that you were loved by the clothes on your back, roof over your head and food on the table. I never heard those three words, ever. It was too uncomfortable to be that open.
    Whether it was the openness brought on by the Boomer generation, or the loss of parents while young, hugs and words of love now flow easily among my kin and I’m glad of it. 🙂


  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Just came across this and thought I’d share. It’s another one in your court. 🙂


  11. An actual compliment from a kid? Wow! And one from a post-teenage granddaughter? The wind beneath my wings!


  12. Don’t know if it’s a Northern thing (as someone brought up in the Midlands, I seem to have a foot in both camps), but it’s certainly something that somehow becomes apart of us as we grow up. I remember hugging my dad for the first time when I was about 30. I had to pretty much force it on him, but it broke a barrier down, and I know he’d have been disappointed in later years if we didn’t hug when we met up.
    Your main point is the key truth, though. The words aren’t important – they make up a tiny fraction of the communication.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      They do, Graeme. The words are the icing on the cake… but all the goodness is n the cake itself.
      I’m glad you managed to break that barrier though. That matters.


  13. Well, I am Southern but exactly the same!! I can write my feelings down but have trouble saying it too, especially to my siblings. The better I get on with someone, the more i insult them! (in a friendly way of course) 😉😉😉😉


  14. noelleg44 says:

    I can relate, too, Sue. My son and I throw insults at each other, in good fun. With my daughter, it is all hugs and love; Two very different kids. I think back to when I was a kid, and don’t recall that parents during that time were particularly huggy or demonstrative, including my own. I made sure to NOT do that with my kids.


  15. Pingback: Writing Links 3/6/17 – Where Genres Collide

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