No one talks about emotional struggles
The recent death of comedian Robin Williams by suicide shocked many people. Yet Robin had struggled for many years with both addiction and depression. Why were we surprised?
It’s so easy to look the other way when someone is struggling. When you are the one struggling, it always seems like imposing on someone else to ask for help. It can even feel like that when you are just thinking about telling someone what is wrong.
Our society lives in a state of false positive:
You deny that you are struggling.
The people you know look the other way at the violence, loneliness and shame that occurs daily in our culture.
Everyone denies – on the surface – that things may not be great.
No one wants to be sad or lonely. It’s embarrassing to admit feeling that way. And yet those can be normal human emotions.
So you push away your feelings from your awareness – even while you may be acting them out. In many ways, you are now living in a world of people who don’t know what they are feeling, how to express it or even how to talk about it.
The world needs a refresher course in emotions.
Depression is not just a feeling
Let’s pause and state the difference between normal emotions and the type of serious depression that haunted Robin Williams.
Clinical depression is not just another feeling. It is a physical condition where the brain is not producing the right chemicals to have a stable mood.
Often when a person is depressed, they are unable to reach out…unable to ask for help…unable to do the very things that could start them towards feeling better.
My request for you is that if there is someone in your life that you are concerned about, that you think may be suffering from depression, please talk to them.
Ask them about their mood.
Ask about depression.
Ask about thoughts of suicide.
Believe me, no depressed person ever first thought of suicide because someone else asked them about it. You will lower the risk rather than raise it by being willing to talk about it.
Now to your feelings.
Emotions aren’t good and bad. They just are…
Every single one of the feelings you feel today or any day are perfectly natural. You were meant to have all of them. Here’s how to remember that:
Think about a time you have spent with an infant. Or get yourself some baby time if that has been lacking in your life. As you are with the child watch for emotions – they aren’t being expressed in words by someone this tiny… but every single emotion a person can have is there at some point. That baby is meant to have all of them. So are you.
None of your emotions are bad. Each one is natural and each one serves a purpose. Then why do normal emotions get labeled good and bad?
Here are the reasons:
You don’t like the way some of your emotions feel.
Other people don’t like you to feel certain things.
You do not handle some emotions well and act poorly when you feel them.
Don’t talk about it
To make all this worse, people no longer are comfortable talking about what they feel. When is the last time you had a conversation with someone about a feeling? We have made our feelings taboo – especially the “bad” ones like sadness. Instead, you tell people you are “fine” and put on a cheery face.
The feeling that is probably an exception to all this is anger. Lots of people are angry. Lots of people handle it badly. Lots of people talk about anger as a result of that.
Honestly, it seems like anger is the only acceptable feeling these days.
Ways out of the emotional dilemma
There are three things that must happen to turn around our increasing isolation from our feelings – from our actual humanness.
1. Learn to express your feelings appropriately.
2. Be open to discussing your feelings with others.
3. Teach your children well.
In learning to express your emotions, the first step may be just to identify what it is that you are feeling. Try to increase your vocabulary of words that describe your feelings and pay attention to the subtle differences between the ones that seem the same.
As for expressing them appropriately, if the feeling you identify is mad or angry, you most likely need to wait to express this feeling until you calm down. Otherwise, try this sentence to help you express yourself:
I feel ___(insert name of emotion here)___ because __(explain the source of your feeling)__.
It can be as simple as that to get started.
Conversations about feelings are one of the quickest ways to strengthen a relationship. When you talk about your feelings, you are being vulnerable and allowing the other person to get to know you more. It may seem to some men that it is awkward or not a “manly” thing to do, but it is one of the best ways to start having more feelings that you actually enjoy.
Expressing your feelings well is a skill that you need to be using to live a happy life.
Teach your children well
Young children have the entire range of feelings, but they do not always have the words to describe what they feel or to express the feeling appropriately. Often then they act out their feelings in very physical and inappropriate ways.
Parents need to spend time helping their kids learn about feelings.
– Help them learn different feeling words and encourage them to talk about their emotions.
– Make sure you are also talking about your emotions.
– Teach your children a variety of ways to deal with feelings and talk them through specific examples from their lives.
– Encourage your children to talk about all their feelings whether you consider them bad or good.
The more practice your children have in identifying and expressing emotions in positive and healthy ways, the more prepared they are for the world.
Changing for the better
The more of us that are capable and willing to talk about our feelings, the more it will enable others to do the same. Perhaps one of the many legacies of Robin Williams is that more of us will realize the importance of emotional expression. It’s one of those good things that can spread if we each do our parts. I hope you will take some time today to notice your feelings and express them in a way that works for you.