I still remember the words of my mum when I was nine years old, and I seriously injured myself while playing with a toy. I was crying continuously, and my mother kept reminding me ‘You are a boy, boys don’t cry, be brave and don’t cry.’ These are the words which we normally said to our children to comfort their feelings/emotions which they might have encountered for the very first time. Emotions like anger, guilt, sadness or even grief, shielding them with our courageous phrases, making them realise that these are ‘Bad Emotions’. One might’ve wondered why we don’t want our kids to experience certain emotions? Is there anything like ‘Bad Emotions’? As a human, we do have an emotional response to every situation and instance. It means every emotion has a certain meaning or importance in our lives. So why we start believing that being emotional is the sign of weakness and unnecessary for our kid’s personality development?
A survey conducted by Susan David, a Harvard Psychologist who studies emotional abilities, believes that one-third of the population on Earth either judge others for having emotions like sadness and anger or simply try to push aside these feelings. Interestingly, these people do this not only to themselves but also to the people they love, like their children, siblings and friends. They might unintentionally shame their loved one’s emotions seen as negative and fail to help them to see these emotions as fundamentally valuable. Nowadays, we tag normal and natural emotions as good or bad. And being positive has become a new form of ‘moral correctness’. People with cancer are inevitably told to just stay positive, women to stop being so angry, and the list goes on. Susan name that phenomenon as an ‘autocracy of positivity.’ Don’t you think that it is unkind and ineffective to our children’s future? What if a child who has been raised pretending there are only good emotions and all other emotions (fear, anger, sad) are bad suddenly encounter a failure in his/her youth or adulthood. How will that person respond to that emotion? When all in his/her life, they’ve been taught that being brave and being positive will solve any problem.
Now, don’t misunderstand me that I am an anti-positive or anti-happiness person. Being a teacher, this is my first lesson which I always convey to my students to be positive and happy. But when we push aside normal emotions to hold ‘false positivity’, we somehow start losing our capacity to develop such skills that are needful to deal with the real-world challenges. Each year many students confess to me that what they don’t want to feel. Last year one student confessed to me that ‘she doesn’t want to try because she doesn’t want to feel disappointed. Another student who just drops out from his school football team exclaimed while crying ‘I just want this feeling to go away.’
The only thing I said to them was ‘Accept and embrace whatever you achieve, even failure.’ Susan believes that when we suppressed our emotions or pushing them aside, they get stronger. Psychologists call this reaction an ‘amplification’. Like that delicious chocolate cake in the refrigerator, the more you try to ignore it, the greater it holds on you. You might think you are in control of uninvited emotions when you ignore them, in fact, they are controlling you. At the end, who will pay the price? We do, our children, our colleagues and our communities do.
Just remember, every emotion has equal importance in our and our loved one’s lives. Just because we don’t want them to experience that temporary pain which they are having due to certain failures in their lives, we are making them prone to the much greater pain they might have encountered n their later lives. Being positive is necessary and healthy behaviour, but unnecessary positiveness will lead to nowhere.