I still remember the day when I seriously injured myself while playing with a toy. I was nine at that time and I was crying horrendously in front of my relatives. At that moment my mum kept reminding me that ‘You are a boy; boys don’t cry, be brave and don’t cry.’ We usually say these words to our children to comfort their panicked feelings as they might have encountered such emotions for the first time. we shielded them through our phrases from the emotions like anger, guilt, sadness or even grief, making them realise that these are ‘Bad Emotions’. Why we don’t want our kids to experience certain feelings? 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 specific meaning or importance in our lives. So why we start believing that being emotional is a 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 to themselves and the people they love, like their children, siblings, and friends. They might unintentionally shame their loved one’s emotions seen as unfavourable and fail to help them to see these emotions as fundamentally valuable. Nowadays, we tag normal and natural feelings as good or bad. And being positive has become a new form of ‘moral correctness’. People with cancer are inevitably told to 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 for our children’s future? What if a child 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.
Being a teacher, this is the first lesson that I always convey to my students – to be positive and happy. Each year many students confess to me that what they don’t want to feel. Last year, one student shared that she doesn’t want to participate in a sports activity conducted by the school because she doesn’t want to feel disappointed. Another student who drops out from his school football team exclaimed while crying ‘I just want this feeling to go away.’ But when we push aside normal emotions to hold ‘false positivity’, we somehow start losing our capacity to develop such skills necessary to deal with real-world challenges.
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 miss them. In fact, these emotions are controlling you. In 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 lives. Just because we don’t want them to experience that temporary pain they are having due to inevitable failures in their lives, we are making them prone to the much greater pain they might have encountered in their later lives. Being positive is necessary and healthy behaviour, but unnecessary positiveness will lead to nowhere.