We live in an emotionally dishonest world. We are human beings who have a wide range of powerful emotions, yet we do not feel free to feel them. Feeling generally is discouraged except in certain situations. For example , it might be acceptable to feel a measure of sadness and grief when you lose a loved one. Any other time we express sadness, usually we are told not to cry, that it’s not as bad as it seems or that things will get better. People are not comfortable with feelings, even when they’re justified. Generally, our feelings are not met with empathy for just being what they are. We are not encouraged to just feel our feelings and allow them to inform us of our own experiences, beliefs and situations.
You’ve probably heard the saying that boys don’t cry, or big girls don’t cry. At some point when we were children we were told it’s not ok to express our emotions and by suppressing our feelings we began to stop feeling them, too. We probably never learned the appropriate way to emote because no one around us knows how to either. This is a huge disservice to humanity.
When is it acceptable to be angry? When is it ok to set boundaries? When someone offends us or violates our boundaries, are we encouraged to take action to restore them, or are we advised to just let it go or forget about the infraction in order to avoid conflict? I have found this to be the case. People are not accustomed to feeling their feelings and understanding what they mean, let alone taking action when our feelings tell us something isn’t right.
When you accidentally touch a hot stove, your hand recoils back because you feel the heat and you understand you just got burned. If you left your hand on the burning stove, you know you would be injured, you feel the pain and it tells you that there is danger, that you are at risk.
We don’t try to reason with our pain when we are being burned. We don’t try to make excuses or say that our pain isn’t real or it’s somehow justified. We don’t feel sorry for the stove or afraid to hurt it’s feelings or abandon it or that it will abandon us. We know we are being hurt and we take immediate action to protect ourselves.
Why don’t we do this in relationships? Why do we make excuses for the people in our lives who make us feel bad? Why do we stay in relationships when we aren’t happy? Why are we afraid to leave someone who causes us pain? Whether it’s a marriage, a parent/child relationship, a friendship, a work relationship or even a religion, if the interaction between us and them is unpleasant and makes us feel bad rather than feel joyful, why do we stay? Why don’t we recoil and get away like we do when we are being burned? Emotional abuse is like being burned energetically but choosing to stay in the situation anyway. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Unconditional love means we love ourselves and everyone else no matter what. We allow and accept ourselves and them just as we and they are. It does not mean we have to endure suffering. If being around someone makes you miserable and you ask them to stop doing what they do that makes you feel bad and they don’t, they are being abusive! Why do we still feel obligated to stay?
Where did emotional abuse begin? How did we get this way? Why are we dishonest about our true feelings? Are we afraid that if we are honest about what we feel we will be abandoned? Afraid we may lose everything or our needs will no longer be met?
My children might point to me as the cause of their childhood emotional trauma. I can point to my parents for the trauma I’ve had to overcome. My parents can point to their parents’ behavior and my grandparents can point to their parents and so on and so on until the beginning of time. No one alive today can really say for sure when this cycle of dishonesty began or why. Maybe it was when we stopped growing our own food & working for money became the only way to get our needs met. Maybe it’s more complicated than that. But at some point we are going to decide to change things, to not pass on the emotional abuse that comes from being dishonest about how we feel. Most likely it will begin with you, reading this. It must begin with you because changing the world starts with changing ourselves. We have much more power than we give ourselves credit for. We created this world and we can change it. One thought, one honest feeling, one action at a time.