owning our emotions

friday’s child wrote a post a little while ago – i can’t find it again for the life of me – chuckling about a list of things that we are supposed to be embarrassed about. something like having your zipper down in public, if i remember correctly, is supposed to make you all mortified.

i chuckled with her. really, i got bigger fish to fry than to want to crawl under the next rock after having been “caught” with something as commonplace as my fly open.

but it got me thinking. there are so many emotions we are “supposed” to have. not emotions that well up from deep inside but emotions that are dictated by society.

maybe sometimes that’s a good thing – at funerals, perhaps. in general, though, i think it dilutes, cheapens and confuses our experience and our emotional truth.

liberace on the pianodisney is a perfect example of this; they play our emotions like liberace plays the piano – and people, there’s a reason why i’m using him as a metaphor and not, say, glenn gould. disney knows exactly how to make us laugh, get outraged or go “awwwwww”. i’ll never forget watching pocahontas, really an awful distortion of native american history (what’s next? “the happy holocaust”?) – and yet i cried and got all mushy exactly at the right spots.

most people aren’t very much in touch with their emotions anyway. people often say that that’s a new and western thing but from everything i’ve seen and read i’d say it’s a universal thing, going across time and cultures – with notable exceptions, as always. so when someone, be it a family member, a clan, or a part of society, insinuates that we “should” feel this way and not another, it falls on an untended field, ready to be worked by whoever puts some effort into it.

becoming more emotionally connected is part of the challenge of growing up, not only as individuals but as the human race altogether. i am truly convinced that the world would be a better place if people like dick cheney, maggie thatcher, pervez musharraf and robert mugabe had a better handle on their emotions.

if they understood better how much they’re driven by fear.

if they got it that underneath their lust for power is a yearning for love.

if they felt the long-lasting goodness of compassion rather than the short fire of getting high on controlling others.

now please don’t get me wrong – i’m not saying that disney turned mugabe into a monster, or that we should all turn into addle-brained touchy-feelies who can’t make a tough decision because we’re too busy going goo-goo-ga-ga over every june bug we see.

au contraire.

feeling and understanding OUR emotions – rather than the ones that someone else tells us to have – increases not only emotional but overall intelligence. paradoxically, feeling our emotions also helps us to understand that we are not our emotions, that they are just part of us. this helps us have a cool head when we need it.

(this post was mentioned in the 24th total mind and body fitness carnival)

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