One time, when I was around 7 or 8, I wanted to impress a cute girl named Lea that lived a few houses down the street from my old childhood house in Seattle, Washington. I guess you could say she was my first crush...
So, how does an 8 year old boy impress a 10 year old girl? Well, he does super sweet tricks on his bicycle of course! I mean it’s the only logical choice I had. In my 8 year old mind, showing Lea my skills on my bike would all but guarantee she would instantly fall in love with me.
The first few wheelies went off without a hitch. After I landed a couple tricks my confidence was sky high so I thought it best to take it up a notch. If I really wanted her to notice me I would have to pull of something really dangerous!
In Seattle most streets are littered with ginormous pine cones because of all the massive pine trees. These pine cones would make the perfect obstacle to maneuver my way through and into Lea’s heart.
With all my might I picked up speed to increase the dramatic effect and started weaving in and out of an endless patch of pine cones....then, without warning my bike came to a screeching halt!
Before I knew it I was flipping over the handlebars and airborne.
It seemed like I was in the air forever and I remember thinking, “This is going to really hurt.”
I landed face first on the hard cement and split my lip wide open. Blood was everywhere and I could tell by the look on Lea’s face that I was pretty roughed up. Her mom’s loud scream was the second queue that indicating to me this was pretty serious. After the embarrassment wore off slightly, I gathered my strength to make my way home so my parents could assess the damage.
As I staggered back to my house, crying and leaving a trail of blood behind me, my dad just so happened to be outside working on the yard when he noticed me coming from down the street.
His eyes lit up and he immediately went into serious Dad mode. “What did you do?” he yelled…“Why would you be so reckless?”...“What the hell were you thinking?”
Once my pops got me inside and cleaned out my lip he knew I would ultimately be okay. He told me that at worst I would need would be a few stiches but it wasn’t too serious. Still, as an 8 year old child, the experience was extremely emotionally charged and the tears were far from drying up. To this, my dad told me over and over again to stop crying! “Men don’t cry JC” he said. “Quit being a baby, it’s not that bad.”
Now, before I go any further, I do want to mention that my dad isn’t a bad person. I’m sure the situation was just as scary for him as it was for me. His reaction was based on decades of neurological programming and his response, in as sense, was exactly how you would expect him to react in such a scenario. His son came home bloody and crying... what would you do?
Unfortunately, the truth is that my dad was basically asking me to deny my emotions and deny what already was. In that moment I was hurt, scared and in pain. How could an 8 year old possibly be asked to stop crying in a moment like that?
So, why do I tell you guys this story?
I tell this story because it illustrates how our culture avoids emotions and feelings and how we are taught to think of the word “emotional” in a pejorative manner. It’s normal for our teacher, parents, friends and even the TV, to tell our kids that emotions and feeling are things to be avoided and not embraced.
In that moment, my dad wanted me to deny myself of an evolutionary response that took millions of years to program into my DNA. As you can see, trying to override millennia of evolutionarily designed instincts is a tall task. Furthermore, why would you want to? Aren’t human emotions a normal part of the human experience?
I’m fairly confident that my story is not unique; however, I can only speak from the perspective of a man. For me and many other men, any sort of emotional expression is usually met with dismissal and sometimes even ridicule! Why does society make us so scared of our own emotions and why is it so bad for a child to cry?
I believe that emotions are a necessary evolutionary tool designed to help us navigate our lives and they should be embraced, not avoided! Unfortunately, if we spend our entire lives avoiding our emotions, we never learn how to use them to our benefit. As with all great things, if you don’t know how to use it, then it’s wasted or even worse, it’s damaging.
Luckily there is indeed a way for us to learn how to control our wide spectrum of emotions. Mindfulness and meditation can help you tame your emotions and use them to actually improve your life.
One of the main objectives of mindfulness is to see the emotions and thoughts as they ARE—not as our old narratives say they MIGHT be. Being mindful is not about being void of difficult thoughts or emotions, but rather, it’s about being able to interpret them with the objectivity that can only come from space. With space and perspective we can choose what thoughts and emotions we want to believe and thus, no longer deny ourselves of innate and biologically natural responses.
After a few years of meditation I’ve noticed I cry way more than I used to and on the flip side, I also laugh a lot more than I used to. Why is that?
Through years of therapy and meditation I’ve come to realize that my emotions and thoughts are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the very emotions and thoughts I used to avoid are really a manifestation and honest expression of who I am—especially those thoughts and emotions I believe about myself. Instead of running from my sadness and only seeking happiness I can enjoy the human experience for what it is—a wide array of beautiful and intense emotions.
When you look at emotions this way, they don’t seem so scary. So please, look inside yourself and stop denying your emotions. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to be sad. All of these are normal human emotions and when we learn to see them without the filter of our ego and our past, we can use them to improve life and even our relationships. By embracing our emotions we embrace ourselves and that is a powerful way to live.
Thank you as always for reading. Let us know about your relationship with emotions. Have you made peace with them or are you still avoiding them? What have you learned about yourself by expressing your emotions?
And finally, as always, until next time, many many blessings!