He lost a family member, she failed her final exam, they were betrayed, but don’t anyone dare cry about it. No one wants to see how you truly feel. Negative emotions have no value in society today. Being sad is seen as too sensitive, explaining how one feels is considered overdramatic, and crying is labeled as weak.
The labels attached to emotional displays forces people to constantly bottle up their emotions as they are scared of other’s opinions which can further impact one’s mental health. People will hide their struggles and emotions from others due to fear of judgement. When, in fact, crying and expressing one’s feelings and finding ways to share with others is a healthy way to deal with mental health issues. Leo Newhouse an author, on Harvard’s health blog, explained that “researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.” So, if the study is true then why is there such a negative stigma on expressing emotions, especially crying?
From a young age, if a child cries, they are sent to their room to cry behind closed doors. As they got older, they were told, “learn to control your emotions.” Society standards have led many to believe that the world is no place for unpleasant or messy emotions. The display of emotions as a negative or shameful quality is especially true for men and boys, as well as for certain cultures. Men are not allowed to cry as they must be strong. A male student from Riverside, who chose to stay anonymous, but wanted to add his insights, stated, “I am at fault for this as well, (that men should not cry) I believe in this because it is how I’ve been raised, it’s all I know, and I can’t change.” The last time he truly let himself be sad was “grade five, due to personal problems at home. Since then, I’ve never been sad, maybe angry, or stressed, but I find a solution, again it’s how my brain has been trained.” Due to boys being taught at such a young age not to cry, men have a subconscious belief that it is inappropriate to experience negative emotions. By deflecting and neglecting these emotions, they avoid the possibility of shame, discomfort, or disapproval given by society, but this suppression of emotions can cause problems for their mental health in their future.
There are standards of emotional behaviour for women as well although it is not nearly as severe. Expressing sadness or other negatively viewed emotions in professional settings such as work, or school is condemned. A Riverside graduate who chose to stay anonymous states “At home, I feel how I truly want to feel, free of judgment, but in public, I put on a mask and act like everything is okay.” She continues by saying that the last time she cried was a few days ago. “Words can’t explain how I feel. I could have a great day and still come home and be in a sad mood. Feel lost, confused, empty, then just cry.” When asked the question “have you ever felt like your emotions were invalidated, judged, rejected, or ignored,” she responded with “Yes, all the time. Coming from someone who has experience with depression and anxiety, people who have not experienced these mental difficulties do not fully understand how I am feeling, they tell me to “figure it out” or “there’s no need to cry,” but we need to start normalizing negative emotions.”
Being human means having a wide array of emotions, no matter your gender, age, or ethnicity. And as a society we should have more empathy and tolerance for people who express these emotions; they should not be shamed. It is okay to cry and to be upset with reason. They should be talked about and validated. Lauren Salles posted an article on Medium titled “The Problem With Positivity: Normalizing Negative Emotions.” With-in the article she says, “We need to stop shoving positivity down everyone’s throat and pitting negative emotions as “bad” or “wrong.” Unpleasant emotions must be felt.” Acceptance is the key to normalizing these situations or events. Encouragement from peers and acceptance from oneself to “make space for those feelings instead of trying to push them away or avoid them” will help to improve their mental health. Being empathetic towards those struggling can also aid one’s own struggles. When someone has to go to the doctor because they broke their arm, it is seen as totally fine, although as soon as someone needs to visit a therapist, it is frowned upon. In the end, they are being hurt regardless and must seek help if they want to improve their wellbeing. When someone experiences anxiety, remorse, sadness, or grief instead of shaming them, help them. As Salles says, give them “space in society, space in our homes, space in others, and space in ourselves.” It is okay to feel, never let anyone disvalue emotions.
Images from Pixabay