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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

It feels like modern society idolizes logical thinking over emotional thinking. Bring feelings into an argument and you get labeled overemotional and hysterical. Gush about how much you love something and you’re given a side-eye for being too enthusiastic. Vent about how much you hate something and you’re told you’re being too passionate. It’s not clear when this preference for subdued emotions became the norm. It’s not even that society prefers totally logical thinking to the emotional way — we’re expected to have emotions, of course, but we need to keep them in check.

This, in turn, influences us. We may feel embarrassed about our happiness or our enthusiasm. We may feel we shouldn’t be so upset or angered at things, because no one else seems like they are feeling anything. We may try to keep our emotions to a pleasant agreeableness — after all, no one wants to interact with someone who’s too perky or too melancholy. We live like the non-playable characters in a mediocre video game, greeting each other with the same phrases, plastering a smile on our faces when we run into someone we know.

Now, we’re not trying to discredit politeness here. We’re just saying sometimes this ends up altering the way we feel.

We try to keep our emotions in check, but of what use, then, are our emotions? We should allow ourselves to experience the whole range of human emotion — elation, despair, passion, sorrow and everything in-between. Often we start to feel, and we tell ourselves, “No, not now, I need to do something else,” and we push away that feeling. This is not good. It builds up. It may crumble one day. It may freeze. But whatever happens, suppressing the way we feel is not ideal.

We say society expects us to check our emotions, but it’s just as much our fault for thinking that’s what we’re expected to do. This becomes taxing in our personal relationships, too. We rarely allow ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable with others, even those closest to us. Though we may express our admiration or fondness for our friends, lovers and family, there are still societal bridges. Men don’t hug as much as they did 100 years ago. That’s a fact. After a certain age, most of us stop turning to our parents for long hugs. We will post pictures of a night out with friends and talk about how fun and great they are, but do we sit down, look into their eyes and tell them how much they mean to us?

We hope there is at least one person in your life you can turn to for a deep emotional connection; there’s something cathartic about being honest with your emotions and sharing them deeply with another person. But it’s hard. We fear judgement. We’re afraid that others will not understand. It’s very hard, and it’s easier to push away your feelings or trivialize them, tell your friends you’re feeling fine or tell yourself you shouldn’t be so happy about a small thing.

That’s why we should start with ourselves. Let yourself feel. When you get a good grade on an exam you studied hard for, let yourself feel every ounce of that hard work and satisfaction and joy. When you are frustrated with a Facebook post, don’t push away that feeling; don’t dwell on it too long, but don’t shove it away right off the bat. When you are sad, let yourself cry.

There’s a whole range of human emotion that for some reason we are preventing ourselves from experiencing. It’s only by knowing how we feel that we will be able to understand how others feel and be there for someone else when the need arises.

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