Psychology, "Bad" Feelings, Society, Ted Talks, Emotions, Emotional Courage, Coping
Today, I watched a Ted talk called, "The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage," by Susan David, which was very enlightening and reminded me of Brene Brown's work. She basically said that in our society, the new moral failing is not having a positive attitude. People actually believe it is a character flaw to have "bad" emotions such as anger or grief. This reminded me that just today, one of my best friends tagged me in a funny cat meme on Facebook, because she said that my feed was too negative. I mean, I can also relate in a different way, having written the most angry book of the century, "Kidowed." That was the exact reason a few people gave me one star reviews: I was too angry. I mean, I would challenge them to bury a couple of their own children and not be angry about it, but whatever. Others called me "ungrateful," which, arguably, I was. I couldn't find any reasons to be grateful. I was divorced, I had given up a career I absolutely loved, and all of my children were dead.
In any case, Susan David said that her journey with emotional courage began when a teacher at school wasn't fooled by her "okay" facade after her father died, and gave her a journal to write her feelings in. That was the only place she felt like she could express herself, because, according to her, the entire society of post-apartheid South Africa was based on a pervasive false positivity among the people. This idea so permeated her culture that she felt like having "bad" emotions wasn't really allowed, so when people asked her how she was feeling following the death of her father, she replied, "Okay." I'm of the school of, "I Don't Give a Crap What People Think of Me," so when I wrote in my journal following the deaths of my son and daughter, I didn't give a second thought to my feelings. In fact, one of my mother's friends who had lost a daughter at 17 to a car crash said to me at the funeral: "You know, it's okay to be angry;" so when I was, I felt like I had permission to be. However, I did have difficulty expressing my anger verbally, so I wrote about it. In her speech, Susan David said that if you are suppressing negative feelings or judging yourself for them, "...you have the goals of dead people," which makes sense to me. I mean, they are the only people who don't have to deal with negative feelings.
I guess the moral of the story is this: we have to feel our feelings if we want to participate fully in our lives. If we are suppressing or avoiding negative feelings, we teach this behavior to our children, and then eventually we have a whole society of people who don't know how to cope. This leads to depression, which Ms. David pointed out, is the most common reason now in the world for disability. WOW. She also said that researchers have found that negative emotions, when suppressed or ignored, become amplified, which just sounds like a crappy way to live. So don't be scared of your negative feelings...experience them. You will live a fuller and, paradoxically, happier life for it.