I live in a country (U.S.A.) of mostly muted emotions. Or the opposite: Jerry Springer. We’re a bi-polar nation addicted to the cerebral flip-flop between indulge/restrict, wanton/celibate, carnal/piety, sloth/extreme actions… Not much middle ground, not much consistency, not much reality. It’s head living.
We’re often expected to be positive, smiling (especially if female) and eschew “politics or religion” in talk. In other words, stash any potential discussion that could evoke turbulent emotions. See pollyanna is passive aggressive.
Worse, keep “negative” feelings private or be done with them pronto. Lose your dog-familiar of 10 years? Get a new puppy! Break from an unhappy relationship? Hop back in that saddle! Your book of stories is rejected for the 17th time? Recirculate it! Make it happen! Serious inner work? Use affirmations! You have breast cancer and go through medical torture? Keep your chin up!
I loathe chin-upping!
As do kids, animals, plants, trees, stars, stones, rivers… Okay, I don’t know for sure that all those things feel as I do but I do know that we ridicule and control children, teenagers and dogs when they display “brawny” passions, especially ones that make us feel something we’ve spent our lifetime stuffing down. They poke ours by innocently remaining with theirs and we hate on them for waking our sleeping giant.
The chin-up is a disguised critical voice and no matter how serene and sweet it sounds it still doesn’t permit “unfavorable” emotions to exist. Chin-upping is always in a hurry with its “sensitivity.” The sole way to dispel sad, angry, hateful, anxious feelings is to be with them in deliberate compassion…However. Long. It. Takes. Chin-upping doesn’t allow for that. People who insist you smile and make nice, people who label whatever emotion that scares them as “negative” don’t allow for that either.
Let’s take anger, a most despised emotion. Not rage—which is born when anger is unresolved—but anger which is a rational response to injustice; something’s wrong. It’s a motivating force. The issue isn’t anger itself, it’s finding relevant ways to rectify it. I suspect that only by appropriately expressing it can we truly let it go.
Maybe the “story” your anger attached to has inaccuracies but the emotion is unconditionally valid. Don’t throw out the feeling with that flawed narrative. It’s your job to use nuts & bolts thinking to view the anger with sincere interest—like a kindhearted parent—and hear why it exists instead of wishing it away. If you’re trying to extinguish it, you’re not listening.
Be with, without trying to fix. Encourage Self by accepting all emotions without good or bad labels. Embrace them instead of evicting them. Enable them to choose to get up and go organically instead of “chin-upping” them, which never works long-term.
Augusten Burroughs accurately observed that even with eager determination and a handful of maps you won’t get to California unless you know where you’re starting from. Ground yourself in your emotions, in your body. Your “truth” lives there.
p.s. Here I am, hanging with my “negative” emotion!