Emotions are part of the human experience and there is no way around it. The wikipedia definition of Emotion: 'is a mental state variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure'.
I have grown up learning inadvertently that emotions are a sign of weakness and that we need to ‘control’ them, not ‘reveal’ them. Positive thoughts end up like a band aid rather than being truthfully relevant. The underlying assumption was that being emotional is no use and is going to get you nowhere and is a sign of negativity.
In many ways, it’s a ‘stuff it’ culture. Don’t express yourself, just stuff it and be positive. This is not unusual in many cultures, upbringings, groups, and generationally. I personally don't know of someone who was encouraged to be honest about their emotional truth, or even talk about the emotional experience. (Not that it doesn’t exist).
Saying that, it may not be a bad thing that we keep a layer of privacy, as not everyone is equipped to provide support for the emotional truth. I do believe you shouldn’t go and cry to everyone, or laugh at inappropriate occasions. And I absolutely stand by Brene Brown when she says ‘share your story with the people who have earned the right to hear it’. Discernment has value. But the premise that emotions are a sign of weakness, in my experience, is not the only truth.
In some cases, there can be a limitation to the perception of emotions. For example in my environment the premise was (and is) that crying and being sad or depressed are ‘emotional’ and ‘weak’. Whereas being ‘happy’ or ‘excited’ or ‘feeling good’ are a normal way of being, and a sign of someone who is stable. The fact is that sadness and happiness are both emotions which come and go, ebb and flow.
Telling someone else they are right or wrong to feel what they feel emotionally is a form of judgement, and this will likely disable rather then enable someone to a healthy emotional life.
I do think that people get really good at ‘stuffing it’ to a point that they are not as much in touch with their emotions and they have found ways of not feeling them as much. Or they have a unlimited supply of band aids and never really take a look at the truth of their emotional aches and pains. They think of themselves as strong and therefore this becomes the more acceptable and functional mask. Unknowingly, of course. We've all had to manage our emotional lives in one way or another.
Emotions are difficult, but they can also be fuel for knowing what we want with certainty. There's the times when even negative emotions are appropriate, we're not supposed to be happy when something sad happens after all. The beauty lies in owning that we do have an emotional life and understanding the internal stories that our emotions are connecting us to. The skill that will help this inner learning process is awareness. Through self-awareness we can discover ways to feel these emotions without acting on them, reacting to them, or letting them get the better of us.
While not all of us grew up equipped to use our awareness so wisely, it is a mindset that can be cultivated. This is emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional Intelligence contributes to self-esteem, self-compassion, resilience and personal awareness. Emotions exist and instead of thinking we are weak or wrong to have them we can instead accept them and allow them to be a part of what guides us.
The human existence is full of paradox, polarity, yin and yang, opposing forces, strength and weakness, change, choice, interaction, intention, reactions. Life can get complex quite fast and our emotions will ride along with us. This is part of the beauty, the beast, and the privilege of the human life experience.
What is your emotional landscape?