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Follow up question: Have you always been allowed, or allowed yourself to feel your emotions?

Asked by SuperMouse (30785points) February 7th, 2010

This question lead me to wonder about another aspect of the whole emotional thing. When I was a kid my dad was all about “sucking it up and going on,” there was no time for tears or contemplation, just move forward and leave whatever is bothering you behind. It was kind of the same in my marriage, as my ex didn’t really know what to do with himself when I let go of my emotions – so I stiffled them. Now, here I am a grown woman and feeling completely at a loss as to how to deal with intense emotions when they do happen. My SO is supportive and has never asked me to pretend to be ok when I am not, and I am not really sure how to deal with that! Have you been allowed to express your emotions? If you haven’t has it been difficult to deal when they do come out?

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29 Answers

DrC's avatar

I absolutely allow myself to feel my feelings. The more you hold them in, the more difficult (or fearful) it is to actually feel them and deal with them.

phoebusg's avatar

Walking away from any problem or issue does not make it go away. Another part of your brain will remember, or someone else out there that this problem relates to will.
I think it’s best we deal with things as promptly as possible. Sure there are bad times to have a discussion – say mid-traffic – but it’s important to take the time and deal with them early.
The longer you leave things, the more complicated they become and harder to untangle. Partly due to how our memory work, or how badly it works.

It’s one of those things that you get better at by doing it. Start expressing yourself, to another, on paper – by whatever medium you are comfortable with before moving to the next step.

Spinel's avatar

I tend to stifle. Letting the emotions linger, I find, only blocks my good judgment and can often injure the other person more. In a tense situation, someone has to the calm one. However if there is something particularly difficult that needs to be done, I would let intense emotion give me the energy and strength to do that.

As for dealing with pint up emotion, I save it for when I write. Having those feelings when I have the pen in my hand makes my stories come alive. :)

janbb's avatar

I remember being called “Sarah Heartburn” if I emoted too much as a child. And I was not a particularly dramatic child.

Silhouette's avatar

My father was like your father, “Shh.” I ignored him. It wasn’t that I was disobedient, I was true to myself. I didn’t see anything wrong with feeling out loud what I felt inside. It has served me well. Dad is still hiding his emotions from the rest of the world. He is 72 years old, his youngest child is 40 and none of us know who our dad is emotionally. What a waste.

Trillian's avatar

My dad used to do terrible things to us kids, and then he’d say really ignorant things like; “Don’t be such a baby” or “You’re not allowed the luxury of getting mad, you’re just a kid.” He actually used the word “luxury”.
My most recent SO had emotional problems and was very narcissistic. He also would do things to cause turmoil and unhappiness and then expect me to always be happy and in a good mood. He thought me very unreasonable if I actually had the nerve to show that I was unhappy because of anything he had done and said that my doing so “stressed him out.”
If your SO actually has the emotional capacity for what you describe, cherish him/her and if you have trouble with your emotions needing a constructive outlet, take the offered support and get a little bit of counseling. A positive emotional outlet is necessary.
Look at it this way: If you have a balloon with a bulge in it you could let a bit of the air out but untying the end is too difficult, so instead you just squeeze the bulge back in. But the air is still there, taking up space, so it just bulges out somewhere else. Every time the bulge pops out, the balloon weakens in that spot. The balloon was designed to hold “x” amount of air, and you have “x” plus bulge. You keep squeezing the bulge, and it keeps popping up in different places, because you can’t control that bulge. It’s there. Period. You waste more time squeezing the bulge than you would have had you originally untied the balloon and just released that little bit. Now your balloon has weak spots all over the place, and is more likely to give under the stress than it was to begin with.
Lucky you. I hope someday to have your good fortune in a man of my own.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My mother used to tell me not to cry in front of others – I used to think she was insane…now I think she was half-way right…some people don’t deserve to see me in an emotional state.

Christian95's avatar

My family never let me to cry or do such things and they always got mad on me because I used to do some pretty unusual but harmless things making me suffer.Even if I wasn’t allowed to express my emotion I always felt them inside me

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

As a kid living with my parents then I tried to keep to myself since they had plenty of drama going on and I was pretty much a nuisance to them with any emotional situations, those I took to my grandparents. As an adult, it’s depended on who I’m around as to whether or not I feel safe and welcome to relax and share what goes on with me.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’ve never really thought about it until now, but as a child, I guess my emotions were never allowed. I would be told that I have no reason to complain, that my parents did all the worrying. When my father left us, he told me that I should be happy that he was finally happy with his life.

My husband constantly “interprets” events with our children and feels the need to dictate how I’m supposed feel about it. (Don’t worry, I never listen to him; his interpretation is through his own filters and are generally wrong.) I have had moments when I do snap, and they are very intense, but it’s only with my husband, and that’s because arguing with him tends to leave me emotionally disemboweled. He is very intent on winning any argument, and I am not allowed to be right or have feelings about a situation, so I don’t bring up minor things, because the emotional gutting just isn’t worth it.

I am generally best left to walk or scrub my way out of the feelings.

shadling21's avatar

My family was never an issue, thankfully. I repressed my emotions by myself, out of shame.

I opened my heart up to a boy when I was younger, and he broke it. I told myself I wouldn’t feel that hurt again. So I focused on school and careers. For several years, I felt emotionless. I suppose I was repressing it all.

Recently, I began my first (and only, so far) serious relationship. That led to a slew of emotions and situations that I didn’t know how to deal with.

I hid it from my boyfriend until one day, exhausted and unable to deal with something hurtful he’d said, I broke down in front of him. The acceptance and empathy that I encountered was awesome. I realized that these emotions may be scary, but they’re healthy and human, and he’s with me as I investigate them. Having them out in the open is invigorating.

@SuperMouse, I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to open up to somebody when you’ve had to stifle your emotions for so long. Have you been trying to? Or are you unsure of whether or not you should?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I was raised in a household where it was considered unmanly to express any emotion other than anger, and that in only a strictly controlled way. I didn’t shed a tear until I was 38 years old, and that was in sympathy for the pain my lady was going through.

My wife was the only person that I could ever express anything like a full range of emotions to. I found out late in life about my Aspergers Syndrome. Not knowing how to recognise nonverbal cues to emotional states probably limits my ability to express them myself. I’ve always been able to feel sympathy but I’m terrible at expressing it, F2F. I was never taught what is appropriate to express, or how, so when in doubt (almost all the time) I express nothing in direct social situations.

I don’t know how much of this to attribute to AS and how much to upbringing. @SuperMouse I know where you are coming from and feel the same way. Also I feel that other people have some magical ability to read others emotions, an ability that I lack and am unable to learn.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

My dad was much the same way as yours.I can control myself if I need to,but don’t because it’s more fun not to ;)

nebule's avatar

No. I struggle with this also. I even struggle with identifying with exactly what it is that I am feeling at times because it’s been shoved down so far. Writing has been helpful to some degree but I suffer with physical manifestation of my stress in my stomach throat and have recently decided to start taping myself talking, screaming, shouting, crying out my feelings because I think I need to vocalise it and I think I want to be actually heard too and no-one else really listens and hears me without judgement (apart from my counsellor and there too much pain for the time we have) so I’m currently in the frantic search for my dictophone! ...but haven’t been able to find it for months…so might have to get a knew one… Anyway, that’s my plan.

tedibear's avatar

I, too, came from a “suck it up” family. It came from both of my parents equally. There was acceptance of expressing emotions that were beyond the every day up or down. Crying about anything was unacceptable, even at funerals. There might be the gentle dabbing of the eyes with a tissue, but no sobbing or streams of tears. My first husband hated it when I would cry and Round Two is even less comfortable with it. Luckily, I had the skill to suck it up until I got in the shower where no one would hear it. The occasional loss of temper was okay, but not much and not very long. Excessive happiness was not good either. There was no being thrilled about a good grade or other success.

What I learned was how to channel it into food. Instead of just feeling what I was feeling, I would anesthetize myself would food. This also let me hide from peoples’ expectations of me in the realm of looks or ability. (Because we all “know” that fat people can’t be attractive, deserving of love or as talented as thin, pretty people.) Luckily, I happened upon my weight loss support group and we talked about eating our feelings. I found a workbook about emotional eating and have made great strides. I rarely eat my feelings now, but still struggle mightily to express them, especially to my husband.

That last one makes me mad. He started out telling me that I could tell him when I was upset, but when I do, he shuts down or gets very defensive. It certainly puts the kibosh on a productive discussion. However, I’m not eating my way through the problem any more.

You also asked, is it difficult to deal with them when they do come out? Yes. But I’m getting better at it.

Silhouette's avatar

@tedibear39 Very brave and very helpful answer.

tedibear's avatar

@Silhouette – Thank you. I figure if I can come to Fluther to whine, the least I can do is to be helpful too.

Silhouette's avatar

@tedibear39 That answer has not one hint of whining in it. You’re too hard on yourself.

tedibear's avatar

@Silhouette – I meant my question from Friday. But thank you for this, too!

definitive's avatar

I was in foster care form being 9 years old and previous to that I came from a background of abuse. I was a typical ‘looked after’ child…emotionless and supressed, as I was never given the opportunity to express myself.

It has took me many years to believe in myself…I hit 3O and boy have I made up for lost years. I wouldn’t say that I’m aggressively assertive but I’ve definitely gained confidence and self esteem and made lots of friends and respect in the process

mollypop51797's avatar

I don’t stifle them, I think that the more you hide them in, the harder it is when you DO let them out. I think that holding them in is a way to deal with them, but it has long term affects and affect you over time. Also, stifling them in is a way of control, and when I chose what I want to do with them, because I don’t stifle, I control them. I don’t let myself get hyped up, but I allow myself to let go of those feelings.

liminal's avatar

I was raised in an emotionally, sexually, and physically abusive environment. Getting to a place of knowing that emotions are neither right or wrong “they just are” has been no small feat. I tend to look on emotions as guests. I invite them in, attend to them, and allow them to move on when ready.

wundayatta's avatar

I grew up in a family where no one ever talked about feelings. I learned, somewhere along the way, that if I had them, I better keep them to myself. As someone else said, the only feelings I ever saw were my father’s when he got angry or disappointed. I believe he had to have been disappointed with me most or all of the time, because I can’t remember him ever saying something good about what I did.

Since I started my first manic episode, I have been much more emotional. Everything affects me now. I cry at stupid Disney cliche movies for God’s sake. No. Worse. The damn diamond commercials on TV around Christmas get me all choked up.

This is very hard for me to deal with, because these are minor emotional situations, and I’m already losing it. Major cases—well, I’m still not so good. Maybe even pretty bad. I get so angry with myself for getting into a position to be hurt like that and that’s no good. But I still don’t have a choice. I have to hide my feelings or find an alternate way to explain them. It’s a disaster.

DominicX's avatar

Oh yes, I was very emotional as a child and it was not stifled by my parents, thank God. Perhaps I was a bit on the too sensitive side, but I have changed in that respect. Doesn’t mean I don’t still show my emotions, I definitely do. As far as I’m considered, it’s healthy. I don’t like keeping things in, that’s never been the way I am. I’ve always let it out as soon as possible.

Jeruba's avatar

I wish I could go back up to the top and append to the original question a postscript of my own, namely, “Did the attitude about emotional expression in your family of origin have anything at all to do with religion?” And I would add—don’t answer too hastily; please think a second first.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@Jeruba, in my case, no. I think it was a fallout from the postmodern self-absorption of the early ‘60s. Maybe people have always been like that; human nature is constant across time. As a child, I can’t remember my parents ever doing things we wanted to do, or buying us things we asked for. We did what our parents wanted to do, they bought us what they wanted us to have.

My mother was very caught up in what other people thought and worrying who was talking about us behind our backs. My dad had been gone for three years before my grandparents found out. We were under pain of physical punishment if we mentioned it to them on the phone. They found out by accident, when they ran into my dad’s sister at a mall. (My grandparents lived 1000 miles away and we didn’t see them.)

SuperMouse's avatar

@Jeruba I don’t think it had much to do with religion in my case either. My father is just kind of a cynical, rough around the edges kind of guy who had no idea how to deal with emotional stuff.

@PandoraBoxx, three years?! Wow that is amazing to me. Was the fallout magnified when they finally did find out?

tedibear's avatar

@Jeruba – There may have been some kind of “stiff upper lip protestant” thing going on. We weren’t really church goers, nor particularly religious though.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@SuperMouse, they got in the car, and showed up on our doorstep, and yelled at my mom. My mom then yelled at me, because she thought I told. Then my grandfather basically, as they say, “ripped my father a new one.” This was followed by my uncle calling my father and saying the same thing. My grandfather tried to make my mom move back home, but she used me as an excuse, that I was getting ready to start high school and didn’t want to move. She lied to her father about my father paying child support (saying he did, when he didn’t pay regularly) so he wouldn’t worry about her. The real reason my mom didn’t want to move back home was that one of her high school girlfriends was a vicious gossip, and she didn’t want her talking about her. My mom was very beautiful when young, and her friend was rather plain. The fact that my dad left us was sure to make tongues wag.

At my grandfather’s funeral, my mom’s friend asked me why we didn’t move back after my dad left, so I told her the truth. She cried, and then apologized to my mother for making her feel like that.

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