The Rules

In our culture, we have unspoken “rules” when it comes to emotions…

  • It’s okay to cry in public as long as you’re at a funeral (but not too loudly).
  • It’s fine to be sad as long as you’ve suffered some obvious and appropriate loss (but get it together already will you?!)
  • Crying at weddings is okay too (again, not too loudly and make sure you wear waterproof mascara or you’re really screwed.)
  • You can cry if you’re a baby but once you hit four it’s not okay (lest they call you a baby).
  • Oh and you can cry at movies (but, again, not too loudly and only at the sad parts).
  • Always, always hide it when you feel angry (unless of course there has been a salient act of injustice done to you or someone else but keep your anger under control. If you express it too strongly, they’ll think you’re “too angry”).
  • If you envy someone else, just keep quiet about it and then find passive aggressive ways to sabotage them.
  • Fear is not something to brag about (remember, never let them see you sweat).
  • It’s okay to hate your boss but definitely love your neighbor.
  • Don’t worry. Be happy. (But don’t laugh out loud in public while alone. Laughing out loud is only to be done in the company of friends or people will think you are homeless.)
  • And remember, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Do you ever break the rules?

What do you make it mean about yourself when you feel angry, jealous, sad, irritated, or ashamed? Do you look to the power of positive thinking to wipe out a “bad” emotion? Do you even allow yourself to feel it? Or do you stuff it back down with food and wine? Do you create drama, maybe get into other people’s business, as a convenient way to forget there was even a hint of it?

What if you were just a person experiencing an emotion? Instead of resisting that emotion because of your cultural programming you got really curious about it?

Sadness after all can tell you where you are clinging too tightly. Anger can tell you when you need to stand up for yourself. Fear can keep you safe. Shame can teach you how to respect yourself.

But only if you listen.

(For more on this topic, check out The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren)

P.S. Are you addicted to approval? Check out my latest telecourse!

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One Response

  1. This is brilliant, Amy! There’s so much truth to it. Thanks for posting it.

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