It seems like the subject of emotions has come up quite a bit in the past few days since I posted about it. In my parenting class, the discussion turned to how as children, we are taught to suppress our emotions. Then, as time goes on, the more emotions are suppressed, the more “issues” amass that we have to deal with each and every time we have a problem, because we need to sift through all of the old stuff we have not yet dealt with to even get to the new problem, which we probably also will not deal with because of our previous conditioning, therefore just adding more junk to the already overflowing pile.
There are so many ways that our society teaches us to squash every trace of emotion, to “be strong,” as if being emotionally dysfunctional could ever truly be a strength.
“Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.”
Is this not the singular most daft, nonsensical statement ever to be uttered? If there wasn’t something ALREADY wrong, why in the world would I be crying in the first place? So, in essense, I cry about something I am hurt over, and instead of being listened to, I get hurt. Pretty clear message there. I better not show that I am hurt, or I will only get hurt worse.
“Shhh, everything will be OK.”
This seems to be a good sentiment on the outside, but let’s evaluate this. You are crying because you are hurt or for whatever reason, and someone is telling to to hush, that everything will be OK. For whom? For them, once you are quiet and they don’t have to face your emotion anymore? Or for you, whose healing process of crying has been interrupted in order to suppress said emotion? So, you stop crying, and the problem is fixed. Wouldn’t that be a grand thing?
“Shut up.”
“Stop being such a baby.”
“What are you crying about NOW?”
“Toughen up, stop being such a wuss.”
“What a wimp.”
“What is your problem?”
“Stop crying or you’ll go to time out.”
“Go to your room until you can pull yourself together.”
“Cut it out.”
“Get over it.”
I am sure many of us had these things said to us, and even hear ourselves on occasion saying them to our own children. The old “I am becoming my mother” syndrome. Of course, the very purpose of these words are actually to suppress emotions of any kind. While in the past this was generally more common for boys, nowadays it applies almost universally to both sexes. Although it still is more socially acceptable for women to be emotional, yet they are still viewed as the “weaker” sex precisely because of those emotions. (Face it, if you saw a female senatorial candidate burst into tears after a speech, would you really think she was capable of handling the job?)
Have you ever heard a baby cry? Even if it wasn’t your own offspring, didn’t you have an overwhelming desire to comfort that child, to stop them from crying? Didn’t it make you extremely anxious and uncomfortable to hear that crying for any length of time? How about when you see a toddler in a grocery store, having a full-out emotional tantrum, just letting all their frustrations come OUT…isn’t that irritation you seem to be feeling really an uncomfortable, anxious, even jealous feeling…like, if I am not allowed to display my emotions, then this child shouldn’t be able to either? Or how about if an older child cries? Don’t you sometimes think they should be better able to “handle” things that happen? Maybe you agree with the other kids that tease him that he is a big crybaby?
Let’s examine these feelings. We, as human beings, are the only beings on this planet to be able to truly feel amny emotions, and express them. This is a BLESSING to us. Yet we seek to suppress it. Whatever for? When could this have begun? And for what purpose? A lot of people that speak on emotions talk about “animal instincts” and “baser desires” and all other kinds of bullcrap, in an attempt to downplay our emotions, to associate emotions only with animals and lower beings. But truly, emotions are not intrinsically instinctual. Animals aren’t really feeling emotions when they are violent, when they attack their prey. Instincts, yes, of course they have. And they follow them. Humans, however, perhaps they have some instinct to kill, but think on all the other things involved if we endeavor to kill another of our kind. Guilt, anger, trepidation, excitement, even pleasure and desire. And of course, most of us would never kill another of our kind at all. Animals know nothing of this. So how in the world could our complex range of emotions be considered even remotely animalistic or “beneath us?”
In fact, I would propose that it is our very suppression of our natural emotional complexities that leads directly to many of the problems society faces today. So many of us have hurts and pains that we have never been allowed to express. But if they don’t come out in SOME way, we are destroyed. If only we knew. So, those buried emotions come out as anger, rage, inappropriate emotional displays, the inability to feel many emotions at all or to identify them, or turning all that pent-up emotion either inward or outward, hurting ourself or others. Whie crime has always been a factor in human beings, because, well, we feel anger, the types and intensities and, for lack of a better word, sheer INVENTIVENESS of crime over the ages has steadily increased, fueled by our ever-growing fascination with weapons built for no other purpose than to hurt other human beings, and by increasingly violent television, movies, video games and other message bombardments that train our minds that only the “tough,” meaning physically strong and overpowering, can survive and “be cool.” Seems like the farther we try to push our emotions under the surface, the more determined they are to show themselves anyway, but in destructive ways, because the underlying suppressed hurt and pain and rage doesn’t know any other way out.
How do you feel when you have had a really good cry? I mean, the kind of cry where you are helpless, big heaving sobs coming up from somewhere inside of you, tears streaming in hot rivulets down red cheeks, snot streaming out of your nose unchecked and uncared about, holding nothing back? When it is all over, when there are no more tears – how do you REALLY feel? I know how I feel. Clearer. Better. More able to think about what is really going on. More able to solve whatever problem has presented itself, or to move beyond what hurts I have experienced to bring the crying on in the first place. I fail to see how this could be a BAD thing. If you stop yourself from crying, if you hold back the tears, do you ever notice that the next time you allow yourself to cry, it seems to last longer? The hurt HAS to come out. The only way I have ever been able to figure out how to truly get it all out to the point where it is healed is by crying. I think part of the reason I stayed stuck for so long is I did not allow myself to cry. At ALL. I would beat myself up if I did cry, tell myself how stupid and weak I was to be crying. All that ever did was make me feel worse.
So what can we do? Well, unfortunately society as a whole can’t be turned from its course. But we can do a lot to change our own attitudes towards emotions. And to teach our children how to REALLY “handle” them. It’s hard. I can’t lie. I still find myself saying those suppressive words, just wanting the child to be quiet. No one ever listened to ME…..why should *I* have to be the one to listen?? That’s my own past hurt and pain speaking. But really….so WHAT if a 9-year-old boy cries a lot? He has been through SO much this past 6 months. The only thing he knows how to do to deal with it is cry. But when he does, he gets put down for it. How horrible for him. I have been making such an effort to stop doing that. To just LISTEN to him. Not to offer a solution, not to tell him everything will be fine, not to tell him to get over it, it happens to everyone. To just LISTEN, and let him know that it’s OK to cry. That crying and being sensitive is NOT a bad thing, or a sign that he is gay (because so what if he is, gay doesn’t equal weakness in any case), or weak, or any less “manly” that any other boy. That in fact, this crying will only help him to become a better person, to be able to deal with his anger and hurt, and TRULY put it behind him, so that he can grow up to be a kind and gentle man and a fantastic husband and parent who will never treat those that he loves badly, because he CAN deal with his anger, and won’t externalize it the way he has seen men in his own life do. I hate that I am the only one who will probably ever give him that message. But maybe…just MAYBE…if I give it to him enough during this time when he really listens to me….maybe it will be enough.
Cry. Cry about whatever you need to. Whenever you need to. Hit a pillow. Scream. Let it out. It’s OK.

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Categories: Miscellany


carl · January 18, 2003 at 2:44 pm

:wah: shesh wha a long blog..hehe but ona betta note great site i really liek da layout!!Keep it up..:)

armafair · January 19, 2003 at 12:18 am

I cry.
I cry from anger, pain, frustration and sadness and even do so openly, without shame.
I encourage people to (within reason) express their emotion outwardly, and try and help them with it by providing a ‘safe’ environment for them to be able to do so.
Nowadays there aren’t many of these ‘safe’ places – even within the family home it’s just like you said – ‘Shh, it’ll be ok’ or ‘Stop crying or else..’
I find it sad that we can’t be who we are suposed to be – human beings. We are always trying – and on occasion ‘forced’ – to fit into the world around us in ways that aren’t natural.
We should allow ourselves – and others should allow us – to just..
.. be.

cat · January 19, 2003 at 7:58 am

tears are a symbol of a powerful emotion, and most people don’t understand that you NEED to get those out. tears are powerful things and when they’re not released it’s worse than if you had released them.
another beautifully stated entry tricia. :bubbles:

Tee · January 19, 2003 at 7:12 pm

I think Dr. Phil is about to cry :wah: because I see sumone about to take his place. :LOL: :lovey:

lloyd · January 19, 2003 at 9:13 pm

mama.. sorry for being away. not that you noticed but I had something to take care..
crying is a very good way to vent out. REAL MEN CRY! I testify!
lol.. and umm.. I break pencils and light incense.

Jenn · January 20, 2003 at 10:05 am

Tricia – this was a great post! And I really relate to it. For a long time, I wouldn’t allow myself to cry – somehow I thought that would just make the pain go away. But you are so right. It doesn’t, it just gets worse and worse and continues to infect you. So now, I cry. And you are also right that afterwards I feel so much better. I have actually noticed sometimes I almost feel giddy happy afterwards.
So, thanks for the post – something that should be said more often!

Rikki · January 21, 2003 at 2:31 pm

Good post Tricia. And I agree with you for the most part. However, when you’ve got a manipulative child who has to “get a good cry out” and “express his feelings” in order to attempt to turn the tables and get his way….best believe I say: Get over it….Life is rough…Work it out….Keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about! :LOL:
Seriously, I do try to get to the root of what’s causing the crying before I respond. But 9 times out of 10, it’s because I haven’t let him have his way. So, he can be hurt if he wants to be, but he needs to suck it up. I ain’t tryna hear that mess. I’m not raisin’ any Momma’s boy in my house. So best I teach him that he can’t get his way rather than him grow up and go out into the world and get his chin checked.
I’m such a bad mommy, ain’t I? LOL!!

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