Make it Yours

Reblogged:  The Daily Post

Unsafe Containers

Which emotion(s) — joy, envy, rage, pity, or something else — do you find to be the hardest to contain?

As a person living with a mental health condition, particularly a mood disorder, I find that pretty much all emotions I experience are difficult to contain. Honestly, I know for certain that I am not alone on this one. We all experience a wide spectrum of emotions on a variety of scales, some of us going to great extremes. Hence, we are considered to have a mental health condition. It seems that experiencing emotions in the extremes for the greater majority of the time is atypical, and from personal experience it can be particularly troublesome. Especially, when we are expected to keep a lid on it, 24/7.

Why do we get the impression that we must contain emotions?

Take note, these sentiments are not intended as an attack. They are meant to highlight misconceptions in society about the means of self-expression and the limitations of what is considered acceptable.

Simply, our society has put such a gigantic emphasis on a pristine image that we find our means of true self-expression to be stymied. Perfection is revered, and as a result, anything less depreciates our self-worth. We can see by the wording in the prompt that the ideal scenario is being statuesque, with a plastered smile and a confident pose. Thankfully, the prompt does hint the ideal is not entirely realistic. Yet, we are encouraged to keep striving for that perfection.

It’s all an illusion.

The happy-go-lucky, sexy people in those magazines all have real problems. Actors and actresses have real personal tragedies. All of these picturesque, perfect people have been digitized, airbrushed, and altered to represent impossible standards. However, the blame doesn’t lie with them. These folks are just like us, trying to make a living doing what they do best. Contrary to popular belief, the blame cannot be placed onto the industries either.

The blame, folks, lies with us – the everyday consumer.

Truly, if it weren’t for our own unquestionable belief in the fallacy that surrounds us in every facet of our lives, then the impossible standard would fall to pieces. We even fall victim to it in our own social media. How many of us have opened our Facebook accounts to click through countless smiling photos and exciting status updates of our friends’ successes, only to walk away feeling awful about ourselves? Plenty, I assure you.

The sad truth is that we perpetuate it. We shy away from posting anything that tarnishes our best public image – unflattering photos, sad news, and for many of us, bleak status updates. We do this until we feel as if there is nothing to post at all, when in fact, there is. There is a wealth of emotions and thoughts that we deny ourselves because society deems them unacceptable.

Better or worse, emotions are real to those experiencing them.

Why deny them? What purpose does that serve?

Denial of emotional expression is counterproductive and harmful. It has the potential to create maladaptive coping mechanisms. In time, they become more complex to disguise the actual workings in order to preserve the function. Plainly, we learn certain harmful knee-jerk reactions, and we can’t figure out why.

For instance, I am known for an explosive temper. People who knew me in my childhood would disagree with that statement and describe me as a sensitive girl prone to tears. However, people who have come to know me in my adulthood would tell very different tales of destructive behavior that would leave warpaths for miles. Why such a discrepancy? Because, I learned that displays of anger are more effective and socially acceptable than displays of sadness. I conditioned myself to be an angry person.

I don’t advocate it. Now, most times I go on a rampage, I am stricken with illness. I fall victim to blistering migraines, shortness of breath, and an assortment of other ailments that lead me to believe that I could eventually give myself a stroke, heart attack, or aneurism. I believe that dying in my 30’s of anger could possibly be the most ridiculous and regrettable death ever.

It’s not as if other strategies of bottling up emotions are any more effective. Depression hurts, literally. Studies have proven it. Anxiety causes a host of physical ailments. So why does extreme emotion manifest in legitimate physical conditions? Because that is the only means that we provide. And even then, most of us get pegged by doctors as being a hypochondriac.

As if I could feign a heart condition, c’mon.

Find a medium. Let it out.

Since the beginning of time, humans found a mode of self-expression. Prior to the written word, there were cave drawings. Music is as old as the universe itself. Since then, we have invented an abundance of ways to productively and effective express our thoughts and emotions. It is up to us to decide what we are suited to do, in spite of our skill level.

Make it yours.

2 thoughts on “Make it Yours

  1. Hi Lulu, good to see you. I read through your post, head nodding, then I came to the part about explosive anger. In my experience (oh no, not that :-P), anger is a healthy thing when it’s expressed in healthy ways. It’s crucial that the anger be dealt with in an appropriate time and place. Otherwise it spreads destruction, and especially if children are involved, spreads destruction down to the next, and the next….generations. Certainly it’s important for children and other important people in one’s life to know that anger can be a healthy reaction to boundary encroachments; but they also need to know the difference between healthy anger (and how to express it) and unhealthy rage, and when to ask for help. It’s up to us to model that. I was raised with a raging mom, and I’m still dealing with that at age 60. I tried my best not to pass that on to my kid, but didn’t do such a good job. Thank god, at age 29, I think he’s got a good handle on when he needs to go for a long walk to let his anger settle, so he can calmly talk things out with whoever, and when he needs to go see his therapist to process boundary invasions and what to do about it, or when he’s been triggered by something. I think that anger and shame are the two toughest emotions to process…..but acknowledging them is the first step!

    • Hey Laura! Great to hear from you again!

      I really cherish you’re sentiments. My son is a very sensitive boy. That’s not shocking, since that was my nature too. Back when I was growing up, all of my teachers would report that to my parents and insist that I grow “thicker skin”. I sincerely believe that’s where it started for me. I don’t want my kid to have to go through that too, and then spend an inordinate amount of time later on trying to change an anger problem.
      I’ve had to reign it in a lot more since he was born. I try to show him my true emotion, rather than masking it with anger. My mother was a very stoic person who rarely showed any emotion. I want my kid to understand that emotion is a natural reaction, and there is nothing wrong with expressing it.

      I know we’re both going to need a lot of help. I’m practicing martial arts, and I’m still trying to get a handle on the mental parts, though I believe I’ve come a long way. It’s been less than two years, and I’m not expecting miracles. Even therapy takes longer than that. This way, I get a chance to release some of my excess energy and get a good workout too. I hope that when my son is the right age, he’ll be interested in joining me.

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