‘Man up’, ‘stop being an emotional fool’, ‘you’re overreacting’..
These phrases may ring a bell given that the pressure of keeping it together drives our demeanour.
In a world where we’re judged and are sent on a guilt trip for allowing our emotions to come to surface, our default mode of functioning has been to zip it, suck it up and just get on with it.
Unsurprisingly, the disconnection with ourselves and our ecosystem has only increased. We’re surrounded by narratives that put logic on a pedestal and penalize emotion, which actually is no less than penalizing us for who we are. Because we’re feeling driven creatures and everything we do is based on our emotions!
Consider the last time you worked toward a goal, it was to feel that sense of victory, or when you take time to unwind with Netflix it’s to feel relaxed. Even when you’re having trouble sticking to your sugar free diet and give in to doughnuts, it’s to feel satisfied. Clearly everything we do or don’t do is to feel a sense of something, so what the heck are we in denial about.
How we feel isn’t just about giving ourselves due consideration, affect is deeply wired within our nervous systems and is what makes us human.
Neuroscientist Dr Lisa Bartett offers fascinating insights on how internal sensations drive our bodies functions that reflect in how quick the heart beats, when the body needs a burst of glucose, how our temperature rises and falls and a whole other set of functions that are constantly running in the background. Our very survival depends on how we feel!
As much as we’d love to deny it, feelings are rooted in the nature of of our daily decisions. Which explains why you’re likely to rush through an exam if you’re starving, or snap at your little sibling because you didn’t sleep well the night before.
As a matter of fact, in a 2011 study of the courtroom, judges decisions’ in granting prisoners parole varied depending on the time of the day. If it was before lunch and judges were hungry they denied parole. After they fed themselves and were feeling full in their bellies the they were generous in granting parole. So much for rationality! The bottom line is that no matter how ‘rational’ we attempt on being, our brain’s functioning cannot be free of affect.
Moreover, obliging to our mainstream conditioning of camouflaging our emotions and pacing on has consequences for our health.
A common coping mechanism is to numb ourselves through unhealthy behaviours like overeating, binging on entertainment overspending and so on. This form of escapism most inevitably leads to addiction and you end up with a bigger problem than what you started with.
Denying ourselves of expression basically takes its fair toll on the body because emotional blocks find their place through physical blocks in the body, more famously known as disease. Ever wonder why men who pride themselves of being more logical and rational, experience more heart attacks?
Emotional intelligence i.e the ability to understand one’s emotions and categorize them effectively is one of the most indispensable skills that is yet not given its due significance.
As teens and young adults, it is imperative to get in touch with your feelings, while understanding the purpose each emotion brings and channelizing them in a healthy way.
Resistance in doing so will only end up biting you in the back at some point because venting within is like imprisoning yourself with stress.
So if you really want to ‘keep it together’, start familiarising yourself with your feelings. Not just the happy or sad kind, but the whole set including the ones you find inexplicable! Only by becoming aware of your feelings and emotions can you develop mastery over them.
Finding balance between the heart and the brain is where your true power lies. How about that for feeling a sense of liberation.