July 20, 2021, by khyx2lyn
Our toxic relationship with our feelings
This article, along with its cover image, is from our first year psychology student Nicole Koh
Have you ever felt how weird it is that we as a society love, and I mean LOVE, to demonise our own feelings? How often do we choose to repress our feelings and even downright hate ourselves for feeling the way we do? It is a rather strange thought process if you think about it. Why would feelings be a pre-programmed mechanism within us if it was not designed to protect us? Yet, we are quick to dismiss its inherent functionality and usefulness with phrases such as “Get over yourself” or “It’s fine I’m totally fine”. It is almost as if it has developed into a reflexive habit in order to cope with uncomfortable emotions such as guilt, disappointment, and anger. Rather than giving ourselves permission to feel our emotions, we often find ourselves (and the people around us) trying their best to usher us out from that negative emotional state. Perhaps is due to their own urge to alleviate their own distress feelings while with someone in a negative emotional state. But often more than not, it can leave a negative impression to the receiver that their feelings are not being validated as something that is just and worthy of feeling in the first place.
This brings me to question that started this topic. Why are we not allowed to feel awful?
Yesterday, I failed to bake two loaves of sourdough bread. Granted, sourdough bread is a challenging and difficult bread to make successfully. However, that fact alone did not relieve the amount of grief and disappointment I felt after hours of kneading and waiting spent only to toss it into the garbage bin by the end of two day’s worth of effort. My family members were quick to encourage me after seeing my rather defeated look of expression, saying how it was alright to fail and that I should not be too upset of my failed loaves.
But the part that noticeably stood out to me was the fact that my family members were surprised that I was still upset over my failed bread after a few days. It felt strangely weird how hard they were trying to make me “get over my feelings” that I could not help but reflect back on the numerous accounts in my life where I experienced the same exact response. For example, when I scored grades beyond my expectations during my college years, instead of feeling overly filled with glee and joy, I was awestruck and in disbelief as to how I even got those grades in the first place. A part of me felt happy, but it did not match the proportion of happiness that one would expect with such achievements. So there I was, being “harassed” by the people around me telling me exactly how I should feel even though I clearly do not share their degree of enthusiasm for the subject. It is easy to guilty about your own feelings especially when others are constantly reminding you how you should feel. And to think that your life was not already bombarded with countless other societal expectations that you are compelled to meet, but feelings? Really? The thought of something that deeply personal and individualized being the receiving end of societal control is beyond perplexing to me.
As someone who is in tune with her emotions, these feelings are not just fleeting states of existence to just dismiss. Emotions carry particular weight and act as an internal security system that alerts you whenever you feel psychologically affected by an event or situation. Thus, rather than dismissing emotions as “useless” or “annoying”, we should learn how to acknowledge their existence and utilize this benefitted knowledge to reflect on our own psychological well-being. By acknowledging how we truly feel about a subject, we can begin to uncover the true reason why we were affected by a certain situation (e.g. conflict of internal values) and to take suitable action. Based on past experience, I know it is better to give yourself the permission to feel negative emotions and to sit with them for as long as you need to accept them. After all, both negative and positive emotions are part of the experience of being alive.