Flags at half mast are a sign of respect, mourning, or distress. They give an immediate visual that something has been lost, that something significant was sacrificed. Why can’t we, as humans, learn ways to put metaphorical flags at half mast to show others we are lamenting and grieving in our own way? We need to start sharing our genuine emotions with each other. If we were able to learn ways to visually remind others that we are fighting our own demons, as a collective we may be able to decrease the pain that is destroying our society.
One of the most difficult questions for me to answer is “how are you doing?” I know the stock answer that everyone desires – “good, how about you?” However, this is rarely true for anyone. Multiple times a day, I alternate between panicked and elated, contented and ruminating. I never share this with anyone who asks how I am doing.
What stops us from sharing our genuine emotions?
Someone just pointed out to me that vulnerability saves lives. We know this is true – recognizing that someone else has experienced similar pain can be an equivalent to a rope being dangled in front of you when you’re hanging off a cliff. If we know that uncovering our wounds helps to heal others’ hurts, what stops us from sharing our genuine emotions?
People are routinely taught to mask emotions. We are judged according to our ability to stay calm outwardly, in the midst of distress. Most often, the person with the best poker face wins the game. Even positive emotions can be burned at the stake if they are shared “in excess.” Truthfully, we know that living life with our emotions inside out would end in destruction. The world is too broken and devastated to handle the genuine feelings we experience on a daily roller coaster.
I firmly believe that what stops us from sharing our genuine emotions is fear of judgment. This is a fear based in solid rationale. Even though we are all rambling around full of similar emotions, we have firmly entrenched ourselves in a belief that no one else will understand.
Genetic Background to Emotions
We are built on perceptions – such as our perception of danger, or our assessment of personal safety in any given situation. Our executive decision hinges on the ability to accurately assess the level of hazard that confronts us on multiple levels. Emotions are also a universal experience, and fundamentally they can be a warning signal of impending doom. One of our strongest subconscious processes is sensing our own emotions and connecting them to what is happening around us. The pro to this is an innate and almost imperceptive ability to evaluate our surroundings, placing us at the very top of the food chain. The downside is emotions can fail us and be completely unrealistic.
Because of our unique genetic makeup that separates us from every other creature on earth, it is a fight against our nature to stop judging each other. When it comes to emotions, we absolutely judge others’ vulnerable emotions – especially when we have experienced the same ones. In a form of self-preservation, we learn from childhood that pointing out the weaknesses of others makes us feel invincible. Discrediting the embarrassment and guilt that others are experiencing helps numb us to our own familiarity with these challenging emotions.
Think about the last time you saw someone trip and fall. There is an almost 100% likelihood that you experienced an inner sense of relief that it was not you, and potentially you may have even covered up your own embarrassment for that person with a laugh. Why is it that the first thing we do after our own falls is to look up and see who watched it happen? Consistent awareness of the judgement of others is a built-in survival tool for every human on earth.
The Power of EmotionsNothing brings us to our knees faster than intense emotions. Whether it is the voracious appetite of grief or the irresistible appeal of showering affection on someone we love, emotions rule most of our behaviors. In fact, in much of mental health, individuals are fighting to gain mastery over their emotions. As humans, we access one of the most powerful tools ever known by recognizing our emotions and what drives them. Unfortunately, our society has gradually moved closer to the extinction of emotions by training us to be cookie cutter, overly controlled robots.
It is becoming increasingly more challenging to find reciprocal, genuine relationships. One of the top complaints that people around the world have in common is their growing feelings of meaninglessness, even in the midst of a booming world population. It is an oxymoron that we are becoming more isolated as humans while exponentially increasing in number at the same time.
Isolation is bred in small circles of insecurity, with blockades of fear that prevent us from reaching out. It sinks its teeth into victims who believe no one will understand, no one will believe them, and no one will continue to love them.
One of the answers to rediscovering our purpose it to allow our emotions, good bad and ugly, a little more freedom. Perhaps if we spent more time recognizing and experiencing our emotions, we would need less time trying to control them through burying and stuffing. If you have ever worked with a pressure valve, you understand the concept of permitting small amounts to pour out in order to avoid a massive explosion in the end. Genuine connection with others on a meaningful level will always require some kind of vulnerability and emotional outpouring.
We were created with divine purpose. We are the only creatures on earth who can experience the array of emotions that make us so unique, and we are modeled after a Creator who must experience the same emotions. There are two outcomes to these emotions – outward expression or inward absorption. Far too many people are crawling through a broken world, being eaten alive by emotions they are afraid to express. Our mission should be to celebrate all emotions, instead of presiding in judgment over which ones we deem worthwhile.