Men don’t cry! – here is the most misleading lie of the century! Yet, it became part of our culture, one of those sayings  that youngsters grow up with. It helps define their existence and role as men later on in society. On a widespread scale, it causes people to keep saying that they prefer to use logic rather than emotion when making life decisions, career preferences or choosing behavioral patterns.

But how real is this? How plausible and realistic? And most importantly.. how many people really believe they can achieve it? The answer is complicated but also simple; it requires a deep understanding of ourselves and emotions in order to fully grasp it.

We often refer to emotions as if they were some kind of disease, or an illness we have to overcome. ‘She is very sensitive’ or ‘he is very emotional’, are phrases which express negative attitude and thought towards the people who are defined with such unfortunate characteristics.

feelings
To feel or not?

Well, I have some bad news for the self appointed behavior judges. Emotions are in, feelings are in, bad behavior is out.

‘Despite the fact that feelings are part of our ability to think,aren’t they what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom?’, Dr Pirinou, psychotherapist at the University of California, asks.

What turns emotional people into a negative stereotype is when feelings of any kind are used in order to excuse bad behavior.

All emotions are normal and human, however. It is attractively simple to consider other people responsible for our own emotions. We shouldn’t. We often say or hear others saying: ‘you made me angry’, ‘you made me feel ashamed’, ‘you made me shout’. It is OK to be angry when facing an injustice of some kind or a situation that goes against your own personal moral values but to be verbally violently towards someone , because “I was angry”, is NOT OK and we shouldn’t ever try to fill the other person with guilt about how ‘they’ made us feel.

[quote_box_center]The way we feel about anything, is a way of communicating either with others or ourselves. Unfortunately from a small age we learn that ‘good girls don’t get angry’ so we are in some way emotionally brainwashed into being scared or even embarrassed  of expressing certain feelings later on in life.[/quote_box_center]

According to Dr Pirinou, we can get a better understanding of our feelings if we picture a river in between our brain and our body. The water peacefully flows from one side to the other so that both sides are equally fed of its content. This ‘feeding’ keeps the communication between the body and our brain open so both sides receive each other’s messages.

When our feelings are suppressed, the water flow stops and that happens violently: ‘There we go again’, ‘At last! stop crying’, ‘If he thinks am vulnerable he won’t love me anymore’, ‘I shouldn’t get angry because I will lose her’, ‘I will not show any pain otherwise he will abuse that’. The river’s flow becomes slower and at some point it dries up.

[dropcap type=”1″]M[/dropcap]any of the things that were feeding our brain and body accordingly, slowly die off. The communication is interrupted and since the brain cannot access the body and vice versa , they can’t co operate in an emergency or feel happy for anything successful. The body is still trying to send the signals , but the more we try to act on them using our logic, or to ignore them completely, the more the body will keep ‘shouting’ at us either in a form of a disease, illness or depression, until we can ignore them no longer.

Our emotions and feelings are not the enemy , on the contrary they are our allies, and by learning to treat them  that way, our life will improve and we ourselves will feel better . We should be able to express our feelings, always of course considering the time and place and situation we are in, but we should never be ashamed to do so.

[quote_box_center]Most of our feelings stem from our family environment and they continue to do so no matter how many years go by. Our family has set the scene for us to consider some feelings good or bad and live by that rule.

According to American specialist R. Skynner, The ‘good’ feelings inside a family environment are very popular , their expression is positively judged , they bring about satisfaction, recognition and a sense of belonging.[/quote_box_center]

On the other hand, ‘bad’ feelings , which grow inside the disturbance and the discomfort that they themselves create, are hidden and camouflaged. Sometimes we fight them off  or even deny them. They become unwanted and a real taboo inside a family. Naturally, a child cannot allow himself to become unwanted – the price to pay would be very heavy. Children’s basic need (like everyone’s) is to be accepted and loved; how then could he allow himself to play a forbidden emotional tune?

So when he will feel anger, he will be forced to hide this very ‘bad’ feeling cause otherwise he will come face to face with the disapproval and disappointment that such feeling would bring to his family. Thus, following his family’s own example, he will learn to disguise feelings that could pose as a  threat , the parental rejection threat.

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The ‘good’ feelings inside a family environment are very popular

He will try to avoid the feeling, ignore it and even deny the way he is feeling. He will slowly develop a real awkwardness towards not only his own anger but towards that of others too. Violence and aggressiveness  is one of the many results of such long term  emotional built up. We can follow just a few small steps in order to change all that and all teach such strategies to our children so they won’t have to endure what probably most of us growing up.

Recognition: I recognize that what I feel is jealousy, sadness, unfairness, anger, etc. I recognize that possibly my headache means that I felt pressured and I got angry , that the butterflies in my stomach mean that I am scared and that the knot in my throat could mean that I feel disappointed

Observation: I observe my reactions in relation to my feeling, how I react in my behavior, with my thoughts and the way my body reacts when I have a specific feeling.

Acceptance: I accept what I feel as something humane and normal. Or I accept that my feeling is out of control and I have to do something about it fast before it becomes self-destructive.

Choice: I choose how, when, if and with whom I will share my feelings. It is very important to feel accepted and to feel that we are not judged for our jealousy, anger or sadness.

[dropcap type=”1″]U[/dropcap]nfortunately when we go through big or even small changes in life, the feelings involved are many and often mixed and complex. All changes bring about such feelings. This happens particularly in chaotic situations where even logic ceases to exist. In this crucial stage whether we choose to move on out of no choice , pressure or even voluntarily, or we choose to go back, the whole procedure involves some kind of loss, one or more.

Let’s take as an example the sudden loss of a loved one. What follows are fights and bitter arguments over heritage, families are falling apart, communication is interrupted, judgment and aggressiveness towards each other instead of tenderness and patience. Every member of the family comes face to face with some very hard and cruel reality and faced with questions that are difficult to answer, such as: ‘Where do I belong now?’, ‘Who loves me?’, ‘Why, why,why’, ‘How do I fill this gap’, etc,etc.

sadness
Every single feeling has its purpose at the moment we feel it

It then becomes a necessity to be able to recognize and in some way, even silently, mourn our loss or losses. What in reality that means is recognition and acceptance of our feelings no matter how conflicting they are or seem ‘foreign’ to us.

Mourning means that I will feel sadness, anger, jealousy (for what I don’t have or because others have it), desperation, depression, hope, optimism, pain, insecurity, the need for seclusion, weakness, uselessness, fear, shame, guilt, and much more.

Every single one of those feelings has its purpose at the moment we feel it. The vast complicated nature of those feelings even when they contradict each other, shows our complexity as human beings. Most of those feelings, though, hide inside them fear.

We are afraid that we won’t be able to make it, that we will not be loved, that we won’t be accepted. Fear of rejection, of being hurt and abandoned, of being humiliated. Even through  happy periods in our lives, the fear continues to exist. We are afraid that our happiness won’t last, that it’s not real.

[quote_box_center]All fears are directly connected to some kind of loss, whether small or big, and in the end to the greatest loss of all:death. Every time we refuse to recognize and to mourn any kind of loss, the fear inside us is piling up and our psychological  immune system becomes weaker.[/quote_box_center]

And the kind of losses we daily experience are not just the ones that our culture and society formally accepts. We face some kind of loss even through success and evolution. The loss of childhood, the transition into adulthood, the loss of youth , menopause, getting old, the first wrinkles, our first love, our first child, thousands of everyday examples that mark the loss of something even if something new is about to begin.

feelings-loveBut we are all human right? Are we not supposed to feel jealous when someone has something that we also want and can’t have? Isn’t it normal to get angry when we are unfairly treated?

Don’t we all feel disappointed when we lose? Feel ashamed when we fail? Aren’t all these the same with the feelings of happiness we experience when we succeed? With the hope we feel have when we achieve something and the feeling of optimism  when we create?

All these feelings are normal and natural. No-one is authorized to judge us when we are feeling this way for any reason. What we need to learn, though, is to try and recognize why we feel the way we do and what purpose does that serve.

We need to learn to use our feelings in order to achieve something specific. Ask yourself: ‘What happens when I feel sad? What do I achieve? Maybe other people’s attention? Do I feel that I earn people’s respect when I am angry? Do I have more gossip material when I am jealous? Do I leave any  space for anyone to come closer to  me when I feel desperate? When I feel insecure do I keep everyone at a distant?

No matter which of the above statements is true, they are all personal and differ from person to person and its our responsibility to find out what they mean and what is being achieved by feeling this way. A nice source of more plentiful information on how to identify and handle your feelings and emotions is here.

Let’s get working on those feelings then.  Let’s get out of that usual way of thinking where we judge people by the way they feel. Let’s also stop using our feelings to excuse certain behaviors. We need to make our feelings our allies, and by doing so, develop a better sense of ourselves, our purpose, and understanding of our emotions.

[pull_quote_center]All our feelings, then, have their purpose because through those we communicate with ourselves or with others. Even when their message is not clear , its about time we looked into it , discover it and make those feelings our trusted companions rather than our enemies[/pull_quote_center]       – Dr P.Pirinou

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Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the alwaysladies.com founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at www.thethinkingmomblog.com

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