This is a thought I had after reading my dear friend Ness Fraser‘s post on internalized gaslighting – in which she discusses how she is always apologizing for having emotions, positive or negative. She is a lovely girl and I highly recommend following her blog.
First off, I need to make two points incredibly clear:
1. I am the worst with acknowledging my emotions in an external/verbal manner. (Example: Me and the boy played a game of rock/paper/scissors to elect who would have to say “I love you” first in the morning – soberly. Upon losing, I groaned and shoved my face into a pillow)
2. This doesn’t mean I haven’t had those things called emotions.
It seems to be accepted as a sociological norm that girls and women are the ones with emotions. With the wave of feminism, women’s emotions became a ‘right’ and into the shadows falls men’s ‘non-emotions’. Again, with grand generalizations like this, I extravagantly acknowledge that sometimes the roles are reversed – I, myself, step in as this example.
But even now, in front of me I have Eve Enlser’s (author of the Vagina Monologues) book called “I Am An Emotional Creature”, a collection of short stories/poems/monologues from various perspectives of teenage girls. The introduction of the book is a letter composed to an “Emotional Creature”:
Dear Emotional Creature,
You know who you are. I wrote this book because I believe in you. I believe in your authenticity, your uniqueness, your intensity, your wildness. I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt, or blare your music while you lip-sync every single memorized lyric. I love your relentlessness and your hunger. You are one of our greatest natural resources. You possess a necessary agency and energy that if unleashed could transform, inspire and heal the world.
And epic beginning, she continues,
I know we make you feel stupid, as if being a teenager meant you were temporarily deranged. We have become accustomed to muting you, judging you, discounting you, asking you – sometimes even forcing you – to betray what you see and how you feel.
You scare us. You remind us of what we have been forced to shut down or abandon in ourselves in order to fit in. You ask us by your being to question, to wake up, to reperceive. Sometimes I think we tell you we are protecting you when really you are protecting ourselves from our own feelings of self-betrayal and loss.
And, when we get down to the bare bones of it all, women ARE emotional creatures. We are hard-wired for empathy and understanding. In the world where we had still had to hunt for our food, women picked berries, grunted amongst each other, took care of babies and children and the wounded, and maybe played some pictionary.
Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen tells us “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy.”
Anne Moir and David Jessel of Brain Sex tell us “[At] six or seven weeks after conception… the unborn baby ‘makes up its mind,’ and the brain begins to take on a male or a female pattern. What happens, at that critical stage in the darkness of the womb, will determine the structure and organization of the brain: and that, in turn, will decide the very nature of the mind.”
Aka – a surge of fetal testosterone that occurs in the gestation of male, but not female, babies.
So, cool. We, as lady people, are hard-wired from six weeks after we were CONCEIVED to feel shit. Awesome, right? How can we apologize for something that is innate, that is a structure in our brains?
But as cool as it is to be all ’emotional’ and to have scientific evidence that gives your emotions validation, there is another side of the dice to this game.
Much like I recognized that ‘Sex Anyways’ sex was not the kind of sex I wanted to be having, I equally recognized that feeling any negative emotion was not something I wanted to be feeling. For long, anyway.
You caught me. I was the chick reading Eckhart Tolle and Anthony Robbins and Deepak Chopra on the bus. The one you imagined meditated to Buddhist ‘oms’ and lit incense and who flitted from one place to another repeating a ridiculously cliche phrase like “This too shall pass” over and over again.
And there are portions of these books that, yes, are hilarious in their attempts to ‘heal’, but they come with an abundance of wisdom from people who have already experienced what you are experiencing. With such a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips, I lived in libraries for a few years…
Eckhart Tolle coined the term ‘Pain-body’, the addiction to unhappiness, “Any emotionally painful experience can be used as food by the pain-body. That’s why it thrives on negative thinking as well as drama in relationships.”
And I know this feeling!! I had this feeling. I had it the strongest when I was an angry teenager and something my parents did pissed me the fuck off. I totes had emotional outbursts – but they were so rare due to the icky flavor I got in my mouth when negative emotions happened.
Hey Mum, remember that one time I stormed out of the house around midnight, slamming all doors, and you and your fiance followed me out and he started screaming at me that I must have been on drugs? That none of you knew what was wrong with me or why I was acting this way, so obviously, the only logical reasoning was that I was altering my mind with chemicals?
That was a fun night.
But I remember how intensely powerful the anger was (because I was not on drugs, I was just experiencing an emotion and the intensity of it called for some accusations, apparently). And how badly I wanted to wade around in my self-made pool of fuming hatred, frustration and spitting disgust. I wanted to send a postcard to the entire world to inform them of my feelings so they could understand how unfair things were and see if anyone wanted to be angry with me (I don’t even remember what the ignition to this teenage drama was…).
“You don’t need to be particularly sensitive to notice that a positive thought has a totally different feeling – tone, than a negative one.” (Thats Ecky, again)
But here is the best part: you have the choice.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare
And guess whose brain does the thinking?! YOURS!11@#
There are going to be things that happen to you that are going to ignite sad feelings, angry feelings, jealousy, fear, betrayal, shame, guilt, humiliation, fury, dread, stress. Anything. But it’s up to you to decide if you want to use these feelings as something productive.
I don’t know girls. If someone gave me the option to feel happy or sad, there is like, no doubt in my mind that I’d chose happiness.
What I am trying to say here, is that although we can defend our emotions and say “Fuck You man-society, I will feel this with all of my heart”, that this is not always the best option.
I don’t like feeling sad. But it happens. Life gives you what it gives you and sometimes this means that you will feel sad. And you shouldn’t ignore this emotion, because it IS an important emotion, but how you experience will completely effect your perspective on your life.
You have the option to think:
“I am sad. I want everyone to know my sadness. I am going to be sad for as long as I like and no one can tell me differently or pull me out because it is my choice to be sad.”
“I am feeling sadness. What a peculiar and unfortunate sensation I am experiencing. I thoroughly dislike this feeling, but the stuff that has occurred to me has made me feel this way for a reason, so maybe I should let myself experience for the amount of time that it insists on being felt, and when I sense some leigh-way, I can jump back in with feeling happy and excited again. But in the meantime, lets see what we can learn from feeling sad.”
How do you change your emotions?
Change your pattern.
A year ago I was in the deepest level of negative emotion I have experienced thus far in life. I don’t think it was too serious (again, with the being terrible at expressing myself), but apparently it was enough for me to have actual nervous breakdowns to the point of hyperventilation… It doesn’t really matter why I was feeling this way, a series of events, variable a+b+c= d type of scenario. If I could’ve had the choice, I would not have chosen ‘d’ to be the outcome, but alas, it happened anyways.
I was in a University classroom of 15 people when I started heavily bawling my eyes out.
I had a panic attack when my mother did my laundry and I couldn’t find my sleep socks.
I had no idea how to harness these emotions, so… I just started doing what I knew how to do best. Art. I put my emotions somewhere else that wasn’t inside my own body. So… This happened:
I began to see what sadness and stress looked like on me. And I became even curiouser.
A few weeks later, this happened (Disclaimer: this is… just… hilarious. If you could take an angsty teenage journal and put it into video format, this is likely what it would be):
And I watched it over and laughed extremely hard at myself because I am a bafoon who really does not know song lyrics at all. And as I watched it, again and again, I began to see how funny my negative emotions actually looked. How unserious they could be if I let them.
And I began to ask myself how the state I was currently in could benefit me. How long I wanted to be serious about these emotions and when did I want to turn the switch and start to laugh at them.
The act of taking a picture, or filming myself dancing like a crazy person to a song that, at the time, ignited a lot of joy inside of me, put my negative emotion in a separate space. It became its own being and I could put it away when I wanted to and start to feel… normal… again.
If I was born to feel emotions, here they are. But it is my choice as to how they will effect me. This is not a woman thing. This is a human being thing.