“You can feel however you want to feel, as long as you don’t hurt anyone, even yourself.”
My wife and I always said this to our children, because sometimes--in our respective extended families--emotions were suppressed. People were not allowed to feel or to express what they felt for fear of upsetting things or offending people. There is a fine line between being aware of how your thoughts and words will affect those around you, and not being concerned with what others think of you. Expression is important, and so is fair treatment of others.
As human beings, we are going to have some very extreme thoughts, things we would never in a million years want others to know about, actions that we would never actually go through with (how many times have you said you wanted to kill that driver ahead of you in traffic and how many times have you actually done it?)
Allowing ourselves to feel the way we feel is important. If you are constantly pushing your feelings down without at least reflecting on them briefly, you are doing yourself a disservice. Suppression and repression are what lead to anger management issues, self-loathing and sudden violent temper tantrums. We need to remind ourselves that it is okay to be angry, sad, disappointed just as much as it is important to feel happy, excited and joyful.
We have these emotions for a reason, and we are still reasoning beings. Just because we picture in our heads the obnoxious politician being run over by his own bus, we know that would not solve anything. The sudden movie in our heads is just a passing flash; life goes on and we can write an angry letter, peel some potatoes with a very sharp knife or just snap our fingers at it and dismiss the inconvenience from our consciousness (okay, I wish it were that easy.)
The point here--getting back to it--is to give our children (and ourselves) the tools to handle life’s challenges. And part of that is the emotions we feel. When I was in school, we had an assignment to write our own children’s book. We could do whatever topic we wished, whatever format we liked but it had to conform to children’s literary standards.
I created a book out of construction paper using circles, triangles, squares and other shapes to convey simple scenes with one line of text at the bottom of each page. It was similar to a poem in structure with each back to back set of pages showing a before and after. For example, the first page would go something like:
Turning the page over would then show this:
The idea was to show a situation and the response from a child’s perspective. My thinking was to provide a talking point for parents and their children to discuss potentially difficult topics. But in class, some suggested that it gave the children permission to feel unsure about things, that not everything had to have a conclusion and that was okay.
I began to think about this again recently. Here is a more light-hearted sample:
Wait for it…
What do you think?
What do you do when faced with things that are frustrating or disappointing or downright infuriating?
Tell me how you feel in the comments.