19th March 2018 |Phil FLANAGAN

Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.

There seems to be some very profound and important information missing from our handbook on life. For whatever reason, understanding has been overlooked or omitted of one imperative element that we all need to learn about for a balanced and healthy life. By example and education, much has been passed down from one generation to the next. However, throughout the generations some vital information has been left somewhere on the cutting room floor of this amazing movie called life.

The area I’m addressing is our emotional world and its healthy expression. Without emotional health life can be, and is, experienced by many to be disjointed to say the least.

Being highly potent and potentially fatal, I find it amazing that this learning has been left out of our education. It seems we have all been left to muddle our way through. With much trial and tribulation we strive to understand, in the same way that those who raised were left by those who raised to sort it out themselves.

Many aspects of life are cultivated, supported and often highly acclaimed; while education about emotions is not even deemed important enough to be given a mention. Intellectual and physical prowess has always been greatly hailed, with the scholar returning from university with a first, or the athlete bringing home a gold medal. But there is much more to who we are!

Although, in recent times, some have started to touch upon what they refer to as Emotional Intelligence, it is being viewed through the eyes of intellect. They say Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify and manage our emotions and apply them. This is a very intellectual, cognitive approach and is as far from the nature and need of our Emotional self, as the sun is from the earth.

So let’s dispel some accepted wisdom:

  1. There is no such thing as negative emotions; only negative ways to express them. So let’s not blame the emotion. In the appropriate responsible context every feeling and emotion has its place.
  2. We don’t need to rise above our emotions; they are an expression of a part of us. “Mummy I’m sad” is as important and valuable to voice and be heard as “Mummy I need a wee”
  3. Saying that emotions don’t make sense, is like trying to measure steam with a ruler. Sense is a way of defining and understanding logic. If you want to understand, you need to understand the language of emotion.
  4. You cannot be too sensitive. You are as sensitive as you are. More often than not when faced with such criticism, people are actually saying, “I don’t know how to deal with you or relate to what you’re feeling” or else they are just trying to control you.
  5. No one else can equate what and how much you should feel regarding any situation, like being told “you really should be over that by now.”
  6. You cannot help what you feel; it’s just what you feel.

If someone has control or influence over you and tries to stop you feeling what you’re feeling, it won’t actually work. All that will happen is that the external expression is silenced but the internal feeling and emotion sits within and with no ability to express leads to untold problems, with the damage being potentially fatal.

However different our upbringing, most were taught by default how not to feel, rather than how to feel and express in a healthy way. By the age of five or six years old we knew that it was not OK to feel angry, sad or frightened. So in order to be loved and approved of we learnt to suppress and there began the slippery slope. Over time we learnt which feelings were acceptable and which were most definitely not.  Preverbal, children give voice to feelings and emotions and their expressions are met with mixed reception. Ironically the more we are taught to express through the spoken word, the less permission there seems to be to express through the language of emotion.

There are several reasons why another would want to control our emotional world. Emotions are harder to control than intellect. Intellect can be structured and filed into good, bad, right and wrong, and once configured we control ourselves based on their criteria, with guilt often being the weapon of choice. Emotion is such a powerful force and a person championed by their emotions is unstoppable. If feeling emotion was encouraged and cultivated from an early age we would probably never hear of crimes of passion or the damage caused by someone flying into a blind rage or worse.

In acoustics there is a phenomenon called sympathetic resonance. Take two tuning forks of the same frequency and strike one to make it sound, if in close enough proximity the other fork will also start to sound. This same phenomenon happens with emotion. The screams of a child can resonate with the suppressed feelings within another, waking up the buried emotions in the adult. Lacking understanding and awareness of what the adult is feeling, they try to control the child’s emotional expression, in an unconscious attempt to keep their own emotions suppressed and buried. Each emotionally suppressed child grows up to unconsciously suppress the next generation, perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

As we start to unveil our history we see the damage caused by those who knew no better: “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”, a phrase heard by many from parents, including myself. Even as the five year old I remember thinking that she already had, which was why I was crying. In order though to be loved and accepted I just sucked it up and wiped away the tears. Unfortunately these feelings don’t go away but literally get swallowed up, locked inside, along with all the other feelings that were judged, criticised and forbidden as a child.

If only we understood the impact of suppressing our own or another’s emotional expression. Eventually we get to a point where our level of suppression becomes too great to hold and there is major damage that is, in some cases, fatal. Imagine if we could press the reset button on life and start again from a place where all parts of us were equally honoured and expressed?

In over thirty years of helping people I can honestly say that no one has ever died from having a feeling but I believe many have died from suppressing them. Our natural emotional vocabulary is perfect in its unhampered state, with an emotion perfectly formed to match every situation that may occur. Unfortunately judgement and interference has left us scared and damaged and we have to start to unlearn and untangle the criticism directed to our emotional self, a process that takes large servings of self-love and acceptance.