Tag Archives: emotion

You Shouldn’t Feel That Way

One of the least helpful things a person can do is tell someone else that they shouldn’t feel how they are feeling. No matter how well intentioned the comment, it never helps and is inherently harming. This is newly learned stuff for me. I have the right to feel however I am feeling. It does not matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient other people find those emotions, I am entitled to feel however I actually feel. I’ll play out some frequent ‘you shouldn’t feel that way’ scenarios in this blog and flag up the issues and better ways of handling them.

Because I didn’t mean it. This is useful information if it’s actually true. If you want it to be taken as such say sorry as well. Find out why the upset person took it the way they did and you will know more for next time. Maybe it was a communication breakdown. Maybe there are things you do not know. If you are asking them to hear that there was no intention to hurt then you have to hear that they ARE hurt and deal with that. An honourable person takes responsibility for the unintended consequences of their actions. An abusive person will use the line ‘you shouldn’t feel that way because I didn’t mean to hurt you’ and phrases like it to enable them to get away with abuse and to shift responsibility onto the victim. If you sincerely meant no harm, then it is vital to acknowledge when you have accidentally caused it.

You should be over it by now. Often applied to people who have not recovered from grief or anger. This is about the needs of the speaker, not the needs of the one who is upset. If what you mean is ‘I can’t cope with this,’ ‘I don’t understand why this is affecting you so much,’ or ‘I am not interested in how you feel’ then it is more honourable to acknowledge it is so. No one is obliged to deal with how someone else feels, and if you can’t cope it may be better to step back. If someone else’s feelings are uncomfortable or inconvenient to you, do not make them responsible for that. You can most certainly ask them to BEHAVE in a different way but not to FEEL in a different way.

Because it’s stupid/pointless/irrational/excessive/does not make sense to me. Just because you wouldn’t feel that way in the same circumstances, or do not understand the reaction you are seeing does not make it ok to invalidate the other person’s emotions. They are not you, and they feel differently. If you feel they are over-reacting, you will not change that by putting them down. Acknowledge how they feel, talk about the context with them. Be at least as willing to listen as to offer your opinion. They are allowed to respond differently to you. They have a different history, different emotional triggers, different issues and they perceive differently.

Because you’re upsetting me. When someone else’s emotions cause us pain it’s tempting to want to make them stop it. But again, start from the assumption that if you are entitled to feel upset right now, so are they, and a playground style ‘he started it’ won’t help. Expressing difficulty with behaviour is one thing – if someone is shouting, or hysterical then saying that you are upset by their behaviour is fine. They are responsible for how they manifest their emotions.

It is very hard to control how you feel – that’s part of the nature of emotions. We do have a fair amount of control over how we express them, and if all else fails it’s usually possible to walk away for a few moments and seek composure. Acting in the heat of emotion is seldom productive. Denying someone else the space to have their own feelings is abusive all by itself and leaves them vulnerable to further abuse. We all have the right to feel, and we never have the right to deny someone else their emotions. We have the right to ask others to handle their emotions with honour, and we have the duty to do the same ourselves, as far as is humanly possible. When someone says ‘you shouldn’t feel that way’ they are taking something precious away from the person on the receiving end. They are taking away that person’s confidence that they are entitled, and allowed to feel. It is a rubbishing of a person’s most essential self, and never, ever ok. I’ve been on the wrong end of this too many times and from here onwards am taking a zero tolerance policy. I am not going to be told how I should, or should not feel and I am not going to trust anyone who thinks they are entitled to do that. Knowing what it does to a person, I will not let this one go unchallenged any time I encounter it.

Feeling Sad?

Go here – only an emotion Play the song, and then read. Only an emotion is by Cornish singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid and it’s a very beautiful and true piece.

Grief and sorrow are natural aspects of human experience. Or at least, they should be. How can we be rounded, complete individuals if we do not know loss or regret? You can’t live fully without experiencing pain and setback, to insulate yourself from such feelings is to not live at all.

But as the song expresses, culturally we aren’t good with this. We aren’t supposed to be sad. And yes, I’ve had total strangers tell me to cheer up, that it’ll never happen, at times when I’ve had to bite back the ‘but it already did’. When your heart is breaking and your world falling apart, this kind of well meaning bullshit is one of the least helpful things a person can do to you. But the gods help you if you let on it is so. Well meaning people who are sure you should be over it by now tend to find you unreasonable if you don’t conform to their expectations.

I hate crying in public. I’m not a big fan of crying in front of most people, because it feels like too great an intimacy to share. But sometimes, the emotions are just too strong and I cannot prevent myself from weeping. Tom (my wise and lovely bloke) once pointed out to me that if your body needs to cry, then it needs to cry and the best thing is to go with that. Suppressed emotion does no good at all to the heart, soul, or mind. What we feel doesn’t evaporate just because we refuse to let it show. And if you keep locking it down and hiding it away, sometime it explodes. Then there’s a great rush of startling emotion, and the people who couldn’t handle the regular grief certainly don’t take that kind of unleashing well.

There is healing in tears. Often I don’t even know what I’m crying for, it bubbles up, painful, intense and absolutely necessary. I’ve spent too many years not shedding those tears. I suspect I’m crying more than many people would consider reasonable, but this is mine, and for me, and I need it. I am not apologising for it. I’ve watched a recently bereaved friend through similar things. There are always folks who think that surely, you should be getting over it by now. No. Some things we choose never to get over, and we all of us have the right to live with our sadness if that is our preference. It is convenient for others if we mend our broken hearts, but that doesn’t mean we should. Some things take more time to get through than people on the outside of it can understand. The tears are part of the recovery process. It’s important to grieve; there can be no true moving on until the grieving is finished. That’s true for any kind of sorrow.

I’m learning this one, day by day. Learning to cry without feeling shame. Learning that I am entitled to my own feelings, no matter how inconvenient they are for others. I might get so that I can cry without feeling like I’m doing something unfair to those around me. It’s natural, crying. People can either put up with it, or move away, but I am never going to let anyone get away with telling me again that I can’t, or shouldn’t, or that I am being ridiculous and over reacting. No one else is going to get away with telling me that my tears are an assault upon them, or get away with trying to make out that my distress is really emotional blackmail. Enough. I have learned some lessons, at least.

I offer you blessings of tears, the freeflowing release of weeping when it is needful, and wish you all the courage to swear colourfully at anyone who does not respect that natural process.