Emotions Are Valid
What do “don’t be a baby”, “why are you always so sensitive?”, or “just man up” all have in common? They are all phrases we have heard from people who love us. And in my case, I almost loved them all the more for trying to make me a less emotional woman, and thereby a “stronger” individual. I was raised with a “no crying allowed” rule. If I did cry for anything related to physical discomfort, the follow up would be “is it major or minor”? Minor meant stop crying immediately, and major was rushing me to the hospital. There was no middle ground. “Normal” emotional displays were just not permitted, plain, and simple. This bottling up of emotions was a sign of strength in my family. Hence my personal mantra was born: I can either laugh or cry, and I rarely cry!
Being raised this way, my early adulthood was a battleground for my emotions and by extension, to my first long term partner. In fact, I took the whole “big girls don’t cry” thing to be my rasion d’être well into my late 20’s. And when I finally started embracing tears as a healthy part of life, the floodgates opened, and I had absolutely no control over my sobbing. I would burst out crying at the slightest reprimand at work, cry at every sentimental advertisement, and don’t even get me started on trying to have relationship discussions. My day to day interactions basically required a pause button until I could get the tears out and pull myself together. While my example utilizes crying, we could swap in anger, jealousy, possessiveness, insecurity, and I am sure you can see where I am going with this. As children we go through a wide range of very intense emotions. And if you were raised anything like me, your adult life included a gut-wrenching period where you had to unpack these feelings, all without an instruction manual. Often resulting in imploded relationships and broken friendships.
It took years of reading, writing, and therapists to get me to the point of being an emotionally stable and mentally healthy individual. While your experience will most certainly be different than mine, for better or for worse, there is a commonality for many I talk to, that holding back emotions is the most common norm. The teenage experience of reigning those hormones in is pivotal in developing our emotional IQ, but then, at what…