The Trouble With Emotion

About a week and a half ago I saw a tweet from a pseudo-celebrity I follow on Twitter that said something to the effect of her success being directly attributed to not showing emotion. I took immediate issue with the general sentiment of the tweet and went into my own mini-sermon about how dangerous it can be to think not showing emotion is a successful feat.

Our society trains our men to not show emotion; we define a person's level of masculinity, in part, along the lines of how much emotion they show. Cry too much? Not a man. Get giddy too often? Not a man. And you know what, that is not working out so well for the men in our society. They gravitate to aggression and anger as the only acceptable forms of emotional outlet. While acceptable emotions in and of themselves, you can't always be aggressive or angry and not expect to have some long term fails in your life, be it in your relationships or within yourself. So it's beyond me why we think that in order to be successful, truly successful, we have to not show emotion.

Before I really go into this, I do want to be clear that not showing emotion and controlling emotion are not the same. One can quickly lead to the other, but just because you are generally in control of your emotions doesn't mean you're not showing emotion; it means you know that it's appropriate to feel a range of emotions and you also know how and when to appropriately express them. For example, you know that when your boss adds one more thing to your overflowing plate it's acceptable to be angry or irritated, but it is not ok to show those emotions by flipping your desk or kicking people.

I really think that I would be in an entirely different life space if I knew how to show emotion; I think that in order to be successful (which for me extends beyond any wealth level into my personal life) I'm going to have to get a hold of it and learn how to do it.

When I look back on relationships that didn't work out like I had hoped, whether I was the straw that broke it or not, I can usually pinpoint my not showing emotion as a key to the undoing. It is really hard to be with someone when you don't feel sure of how they feel about you. I usually try to redirect my inability to show my emotion into actions; doing things to say "I love you" or "I care about you" but sometimes people want and need more than that.

I used to be of the mindset that a person would just have to learn to deal with it, but I've sincerely come to realize that this is a me-thing; this isn't a character flaw that we just have to adjust to, this is a thing that I have to handle if I want to have meaningful relationships (and if you read this blog, you know that's important to me).

Sometimes people just want you to be happy for them and show it. I may genuinely be excited for a person but struggle to show them that. Jumping up and down, changing the inflection in my voice, raising my eyebrows and smiling: all things that might show excitement but that I fail at doing. I can think of many reasons to explain how I've evolved into this, but in my opinion they don't matter. What matters is me making efforts to be better than I have been.

I know other people like me and I hear what people say about them. How people feel shunned because the person won't ever express how they feel, how folks think the person hates them when the person actually cares deeply for them, all because they've never heard them say it or seen anything to suggest it. I don't doubt it's been said about me. In fact, I remember a dear friend sharing good news with me and me responding and her saying, "why can't you just be happy for me?!" I thought what I said conveyed how happy I was for her, but I realized my flat affect definitely made what I said sound sarcastic.

And don't get me wrong, it's a struggle to be different than you have been, both within yourself and for others. When I try harder to inject emotion in my voice, folks think I'm trying to be funny and that can be discouraging to me since I already feel like I sound insincere (though I'm really not). It's easier to just do what I've always done, but I have good feelings about 2012 and I shall do my part to make sure it's the best it can be.

Starting with these emotions...

1 comment:

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