Expressing Emotions: Trick Or Treat?
Darwin was fascinated by emotions and concluded that their job was basically to warn us quickly when a situation is safe or not. Anger gives us strength, fear teaches us to stay away from danger, and love keeps us bonded to others.
But we have a complicated relationship with our emotions.
We brand some as good and others as bad. As a consequence, we might suppress and ignore the ones we don’t want or don’t deem ‘appropriate’, and chase the ones we do.
No wonder that when it comes to expressing what we really feel we apply pretty much the same rules of engagement.
Because, while not always true, a lot of times expressing emotions seems like a bad idea, dangerous even.
To our minds, it appears that being ourselves and letting others see us for who we are can lead to overwhelmingly unpleasant consequences and losses. This may or may not be the case, but for a perfectionist, this assumption usually goes unchallenged.
Then there are the cultural and societal rules about what is or isn’t acceptable to express – in general, and according to gender. For example, anger and aggression are seen as masculine whereas emotions such as hurt, fear and sadness are considered feminine and weak.
Hence, men are more likely (and encouraged) to express the former than the latter, while women are judged and often disapproved for doing the same thing.
So it may seem that we’re trapped. That we don’t have much choice in the matter.
But it’s not true.
The brain can be trained to learn new behaviours.
Societal and personal rules can be challenged.
Recognising made-up constructs gives us a different understanding and new possibilities.
And once we notice how our thoughts influence and trigger our emotions, we realise we have the tool to start making the changes we want.
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