It is my experience, and maybe yours too, showing emotion is often associated with people who are weak. We’re been taught to hide our emotions, to be afraid or ashamed of them. Seriously how healthy does that sound?
What a twisted fantasy it is that stuffing our emotions will cause them to somehow magically disappear and we’ll go on our merry way filled with happiness, inner peace and love. I don’t know who started the “it’s good to stuff your emotions” idea but it’s not right. We are specifically designed to feel our way through life. You know what happens when we stuff the natural emotions we’re born with? Nothing good at all.
For many years I never saw my father express healthy emotion. He grew up in a society where real men didn’t express emotion – ever. I resented him for it. No, let’s be honest, I hated him for it.
Unable or unwilling to accept the vulnerability of expressing healthy emotion made him an angry tyrant. He raged, snorted, and slammed around like a bull in a delicate china shop of two little girls and a scared wife.
“You’re too emotional,” he coldly said as tears streamed down my face at the cruel and horrific scenes of baby harp seals being beaten to death and the close up, slow motion images of prairie dogs being blown to smithereens in the documentaries my father watched on television in the 1960s.
Once my father dragged me out of the shower because my mother had breakfast on the table and he thought I was taking too long. Later that day picking me up from school where I spent the entire day crying, “You’re too emotional” again felt like daggers into my heart. My father stormed through life not giving a damn about the emotions of other living things.
Then one beautiful crisp autumn day all that changed – for good. My father was hunting and knew he had fatally wounded a deer but could not find it. Regardless of what an ass he was to me, my sister, our mother, harp seals, and prairie dogs, he was a responsible hunter always using what he took from the natural world. It went against his values to just leave the deer so he searched for hours and hours without success. My father was so exhausted and upset he sat down on a log, buried his head in his hands and sobbed. I believe for the first time ever, or at least in many, many years.
We never know what life-event holds the potential to shake us to the core of our being. The frustration and helplessness of killing that poor deer and not being able to find it cracked my father’s heart wide open. Years of stuffed emotion came pouring out and through the deer’s death my father was reborn.
From that day forward my dad has been a new man – one who does not hold back tears of sadness, joy or pain. He has a new-found respect and kindness for the natural world and all that call it home. My father is no longer concerned with what “real men” are supposed to do. He knows it takes Super-Men to accept that being gentle enough to express healthy emotion is one of the strongest things they do.
There may be people in your life who seem to manage normally in the day but then they all of a sudden explode. Maybe you are that person that was exactly my dad. Through his example he taught me to do the same thing – stuff your emotions and then explode. All we are doing by stuffing is repressing our emotions but emotions can’t be repressed. Emotions ALWAYS leak out, and sometime gush out onto the innocent in our lives.
You are alive to feel. You create a healthy life by learning how to positively deal with your emotions. Don’t stuff them, thinking you’ll deal with them later. Yes, there are times when it is not appropriate to express anger at your spouse while you are in front of your children. But don’t ignore the anger by stuffing it. When it is the right time, express why you are angry but stay calm and communicate clearly.
We cannot continue to perpetuate the stupid idea expressing healthy emotion is not socially acceptable. Look at the world we are creating as a result or being unfeeling. Let’s teach our children healthy ways to express their feelings. That means you and I must know what we’re feeling and why too. Are you confused, happy, uneasy, positive, fearful, or negative? Are you tired, excited, motivated, tearful, or shocked? Are you devastated, hopeful, irritated, eager, or compassionate?
Whatever you feel, validate those emotions. And support those you love in expressing their emotions in healthy ways too. True healing comes from feeling what you’re feeling.