A few weeks ago, Mike and I went to see a musical with our friends. It was a hilarious satire that has caused a wild stir and it’s AWESOME! In it, was a song called, “Turn It Off.” (Know which one I mean?)
The song is all about shutting down what you are feeling emotionally when what you are feeling doesn’t conform to what you have been taught.
The song struck me because I see people do this and not just because of a particular religion but because it seems like the ‘right’ thing to do. Some people are raised to ignore tendencies and emotions because they are uncomfortable. Parents don’t want to have to deal with the discomfort and accept that their child might be different or have different thoughts and feelings than what they are ‘supposed to’ and so they teach them how to turn it off as if it were just this simple switch that makes everything go away.
I immediately laughed when the song started because of its truth and then at the same time, I felt this sting of sadness for those that grow up with this. I never had that as a kid. I never feared talking about things to my parents that I thought of or felt because I truly felt unconditional love. There were no terms with my parents on whether I would be accepted or not based on what I felt. But, some children do. And so some children build a wall between their parents because of the cognitive dissonance going on in their brain.
Ex. A child feeling gay tendencies. A boy deep into puberty that can’t stop thinking about boobs. Or a young girl realizing she should have been born a boy.
Their religion or parents tell them their feelings are wrong and so the answer is to turn it off. If you turn it off, you don’t have to deal with the acceptance or discomfort and you take away its importance. Or does it?
All of us have difficult feelings. Is the best way to handle them to just turn it off? One of the most difficult things we learn as humans is how to handle our emotions in an effective way. Emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, grief, depression, shame and fear are so hard to manage. But, is the right answer to just avoid them? Is it better to deny that they exist or bury them somewhere deep inside? Maybe it works for temporary ease. But, let’s be real, they don’t really disappear and they aren’t just turned off. They live inside and like a ricochet, they will come right back. They will haunt you until they are dealt with.
Friends and family have told me that I am sensitive. I can’t hide what I am feeling because I’m pretty good at making it known. I used to wonder if I was too selfish and didn’t have enough strength to bury it down deep when I saw other people able to just compartmentalize their emotions. But, for me, it felt so much better to express it, get it out, deal with and then from that point I could move on. Anger, shame, guilt and all those uncomfortable feelings living deep inside with no acknowledgment turn into sickness. They don’t go away. They come back and they come back with a vengeance. It’s only a matter of time. So, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that perhaps I’ve been doing it right. Feelings come up, I acknowledge them, get to know them, have a conversation with them, understand them and then suddenly they are much easier to manage. It’s temporary discomfort rather than underlying discomfort that maintains a hold on you.
The more you can experience them, the more you can manage them and the more power you have. Once you have that relationship with those feelings, you get to control how much they influence your life. It’s okay for someone else to disagree with what you are feeling and you can disagree with someone else’s view and still respect it. But, it’s sad when I see someone go against what they know is their truth because of the fear of not being accepted. We weren’t put here to be what someone else wants us to be, we were put here to be our unique selves. So I say turn it on and make it bright.