Sunday, March 13, 2011

In Defense of Repressing Your Emotions

I'm not very good at discussing my feelings, unless those feelings are annoyance, boredom, hunger, or amusement. Anything more weighty than that makes me feel uncomfortable. In fact, a lot of the time I'm not even truly aware of what I'm feeling or why. This is a source of great bafflement to poor Phillip, who can sometimes tell that I'm upset, which upsets him, but I'm completely unable to explain why I am upset without a lengthy process of self examination. I'm not doing the "chick" thing where I say nothing is wrong when something is definitely wrong. I honestly don't know why I feel unhappy until I sit and think about it for a long time. I have to be quiet and alone to determine the cause of my distress; I rarely know or can explain it before that.

Phil wants me to talk about my feelings, but that's difficult for me, since I'm so out of touch with mine most of the time. It requires a lot of effort for me. Other people don't have this problem though. I see people emoting all over each other all the time, with seemingly no effort or thought or shame. And here is where I come to my point. I don't believe that these promiscuous emoters are more emotionally healthy than me. I don't think their way is better than mine. Here is why.

You've frequently heard me discuss "The Biggest Loser" as an example of over-emoting. They cry through the whole dang show, over things that seem silly to an objective viewer. But "The Biggest Loser" is only one example of this over-emoting. Any talk show is a good example too. For instance, let's take "Jerry Springer". Those people have no trouble expressing their emotions. They may not be eloquent or witty, but they know what they're feeling and know how they wish to express it. But would we say that the guests on Jerry Springer are going through a cathartic, therapeutic process? Do the guests on Jerry Springer feel better about themselves and their situations when the show is over, and their venting is complete? I would wager that they do not.

But we don't need to go to a talk show as extreme as "Jerry Springer". What about a "more classy" talk show, like "Maury Povich"? They don't fight on "Maury", and they keep their clothes on at all times, so that must be better, right? No, no it isn't. The women sit and cry and cry because they can't locate their baby daddy, no matter how many men they force into paternity testing. Sometimes Maury Povich locates the father and sometimes he doesn't. But either way, the woman should feel better right? Because she expressed her emotions and cried and "got it all out there". Being open and honest is always helpful right?

I submit that it is not better. The woman is still promiscuous, her baby still has a reluctant, irreponsible father at best, and now everyone in the country knows that she had to have 8 men tested to determine the father of her child. I would state that these problems are just as horrifying after the woman has expressed her feelings and cried. Discussing your distress doesn't make the causes of the distress disappear. Now you just have a new problem - dealing with the shame of degrading yourself on television.

Another example of people expressing their emotions is the show "Cops". The people on "Cops" express their emotions a lot too. If they feel angry, they hit someone. If they feel lonely, they hire a prostitute. If they are bored, they make mischief. They never repress their emotions, or stifle themselves. So these must be the most psychologically healthy, enlightened people in the world right?

No. Obviously not.

Let's move away from TV examples. I'm sure many would say that TV emotions don't count, as they are often faked or enhanced to increase ratings, etc. But many also argue that in real life, people shouldn't repress their emotions either. They say that holding it all in will hurt you emotionally, and turn you into a neurotic, twitchy person. Whereas expressing all your emotions leads to openness, honesty, and free spiritedness. Let's explore why this is retarded.

Let's say I can't stand someone. For argument's sake we'll call her Jasmine. I can't stand Jasmine, but I have to deal with her on an almost daily basis. Let's say she's my coworker or a family member. Someone I can't avoid. Well, if I'm in the "expressing my emotions" camp, of course I will notify Jasmine that I don't like her. I will do this verbally and with my actions. I will make snotty comments about her, mocking her appearance, telling her to shut up whenever she talks, making fun of her foibles and generally being horrible to her. What's wrong with that? I don't want to repress myself after all. That would be dishonest. It's wrong and hypocritical to pretend to like someone when you don't, right? So I make a miserable working and/or home environment for Jasmine. Of course, our other coworkers and/or family members have to get involved and take sides. Maybe they think I'm totally out of line and they turn against me. Or maybe they agree with me and we all gang up on Jasmine because we hate her so much. We all discuss our emotions freely, telling each other exactly what we think of each other and why.

But let's say I'm a person who sees nothing wrong with repressing my emotions. This is what happens. I see Jasmine and she annoys the crap out of me. I ignore it and keep my feelings to myself. The workplace/home environment is perhaps strained from time to time, but overall everyone gets along and there's not much drama.

Which environment is healthier? Where would you rather live/work?

Also, it's important to remember that not all your feelings are valid. I know that is close to blasphemy for some people; who believe that there "are no good or bad feelings" but there are. There definitely are. You should be ashamed for having some of your feelings, and so should I. Here is an example: I once knew a girl who applied for a management position at her company. She was not hired. They hired another person instead. Well, the girl decided that the person who was hired was now her mortal enemy, and she unleashed a totally irrational barrage of hatred upon the new manager. That is an irrational, bad feeling and she should have been ashamed of it, rather than "expressing" it all over the place.

Have you ever felt happy seeing an asshole get punched in the face? Have you ever decided that you hate someone simply because you're jealous of her? Have you ever been angry at someone who didn't deserve it? Of course! We are all guilty of having irrational, bad feelings from time to time. But I maintain that these feelings should be repressed, not expressed.

This applies to memoirs as well. I understand that it can be therapeutic to write about your life, especially any bad experiences you might have had. But think what you're doing to others in the meantime. You are depressing all your readers with your horrible story, and you're badmouthing people in a format that makes it impossible for them to defend themselves. Yes, you have expressed your emotions. Yes, you might even feel better for a while. But you have only added to the world's misery by spreading your internal misery all over the place like an oil spill. I'm not suggesting that you need to be positive and perky all the time - I would be the wrong person to take that stance - I'm just saying you don't need to express every emotion you have without regard to how it will affect others.

No comments:

Post a Comment