Is it “bad” to miss someone you love? Are there really any emotions that we feel that we should regret?
Our society attempts to train us to devalue certain feelings, to consider them “bad” in the hope of providing us with stuff that will take them away. It’s a moneymaking approach since the stuff to change feelings is usually sold to us, and often addictive.
Our culture even has defined what feelings we shouldn’t have, or, at least, admit we have. Women are not to get angry or show anger, or not to feel too much self-confidence. And men are not supposed to feel afraid (except sometimes in culturally approved battles with each other if they don’t act on it), hurt, or confused, or at least not admit it without jeopardizing their real manhood.
And we’re also taught how to react when we have “bad” feelings. Men are conditioned to flip almost unconsciously into abstraction whenever they feel hurt, fear, or confusion.
They think in terms of principles not persons, about precedents and laws, not feelings. They move out of the details and ambiguities of relational life to hide in the maths and sciences of the analytic life, and in engineering “solutions.”
Or, men are conditioned to isolate from these feelings, either by flipping into that familiar secondary emotion – anger – or into addictions such as television, alcohol, and sex. Sometimes men isolate right in front of others as many women know when they’re sitting across from a man and sense that he’s not really there.
“Are you listening?” she might ask; and he’ll assure her: “Oh yes!” But then he’ll often be caught having forgotten something she vividly remembers later. That there-but-not-there experience, results from something in the environment, or conversation triggering the emotions society says it’s “bad” for men to have.
Or, men are conditioned to minimize these emotions as “women’s stuff.” In our culture, women are allowed the freedom to feel hurt, fear, and confusion, but this is put down.
How many homophobic men when seeing the buffed bodies of a catalogue of men in underwear have concluded, to save their feelings about it, that, “they’re all gay (not really male by gender conditioning) anyway.”
Women who have these emotions are conditioned to believe their emotions have little value; certainly not as valuable as cold, hard, manly reasoning. They are conditioned to deny their emotions, or isolate from them in out-of-body experiences.
Or they’re taught to transfer their emotions, especially when they involve anger, to more acceptable “women’s” emotions: hurt and confusion, the ones men minimize.
That’s why Mahrya Monson’s poem, “Anger,”* speaks volumes:
Women are denied the release of swearing,
The fist driven through the wall,
Reverberations echoing through the neighborhood.
Sometimes we are allowed to slam doors.
When we were children,
We were told,
“Don’t be angry.”
“It’s not nice to be angry.”
Is that why
GIVES ME A STOMACHACHE
CAUSES ME TO FEEL
I have often shed tears in anger.
Is that a more acceptable way
Emotions in themselves are no more than feelings meant to be felt. We can choose whether to act, base our thinking on, or make decisions on the basis of those feelings.
Those emotions society tells us are “bad” and we shouldn’t have, are important. Sometimes they’re messages from our past, revealing what happened to install those feelings that something in the present triggered.
But society can also be suspicious of good feelings that arise spontaneously — of play (“That’s childish; replace it with competition.”), of love and romance (“You can’t trust those either; they’ll let you down.”), of joy (“Postpone it.”) and of our own lovability (“You’re not; don’t over-rate yourself; you don’t deserve it.”).
We can choose to deal with our emotions or not. None is “bad,” none unmanly or unwomanly. They’re part of our living.
Some are from the past and useless in the present.
Others are from the present and really are based in what’s happening in front of us. They warn us, confirm us, and enhance our todays.
We must sort them out to be who we really are.
And none of those feelings that tell us we are anything less than whole, complete, loving, and lovable are true, because the fact is we’re no less than whole, complete, loving and lovable. That’s true no matter how we feel.
*Used with permission from the author