July 9, 2011

Calm down, shut up, and cheer up: how are you really feeling?

If I were given a dollar for each time as a child growing up (and even as an evolving adult today) that I was told to calm down, I’d be a millionaire.

Being told to calm down while in the frustrating midst of trying to explain one’s feeling and self is one of the most invalidating things that a human being can ever experience.  For me, these two words have the diametric opposite effect of their intentions.

Then there’s shut up. This command given by one person to another is so crass that it borders on being inhumane. Slap me upside the head and let’s have a down and low drag out fight but please I beg you, refrain from telling me those two words also.

Here’s the real clincher:  cheer up! Usually proceeded by, things could be worse, be thankful for what you have, tomorrow is another day or same shit different day, this happiness on demand directive is oftentimes ineffective. Cheer up is the final two nails one drives into our coffin of emotions.

Our exposure to these three two-word commands often begins at tender and impressionable ages in our lives. Without realizing it, we start to silence ourselves.

Why can’t we just spiral out of control, scream hysterically at the tops of our lungs and then exhausted and exasperated, collapse into an emotional heap? At least then we would have worked through our feelings and are more likely to emerge from them feeling centered, calm and happy!

The epitome of happiness

To me, this is the magical beauty that exists in a baby:  in the absence of mind-made words, there’s no mistaking how they feel. If they’re happy their gurgles and smiles let us know and when they’re sad, through their tears and gut wrenching screams they communicate loud and clear!

It is no wonder that addiction and drug use is so prevalent in our societies – they are the perfect anecdotes for calming down, shutting up and cheering up!

Emotions, especially those we consider dark, are tough waters to wade through. No one would consciously call upon themselves desperation, despair and depression.  Yet at some stage of our development, perhaps more than once, we’ll find ourselves in this uncomfortable space. For many of us whenever we’re faced with the same lesson dressed up in different masquerade outfits we plead, “why me?” At a higher plane however, there is a responding voice that replies, “why not you?”

Various life experiences have taught me that we’ll repeatedly be thrown the same lesson until we get it. And even when we feel we’ve gotten it, life will through us a curve ball just to quadruple check.

Being open, aware and conscious are the elements that unlock our hearts and allow us to gracefully wade through our emotions. In a world that is strung up on the perpetual pursuit of happiness, our natural instinct to minimize pain and suffering when possible is quickly becoming a need to avoid suffering by any means necessary. Until we come to the realization and acceptance that suffering and happiness exist in tandem, people will continue to feed either one at the cost of starving the other, creating imbalance.

Feel your feelings, in the knowing that like all else, they are fleeting and therefore liberate your psyche from being identified and imprisoned by them.

In the words of [Bob] Marley, who feels it knows it [Lord].

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Nadine McNeil  |  Contribution: 7,500