Member Musings: Politically Correct Emotions

Catherine Auman, LMFT
Supervisors SIG Chair, LA-CAMFT

Once when I was a little girl, my father said to me, “Stop crying. You’re too smart to have feelings.” He was my perfect dad (until adolescence anyway) so it seemed he must be right. He never stopped trying to get everyone in the house, my mother, my brother, my sisters and me, to stop expressing our emotions, although he met with minimal success.

There’s a prevailing notion in our culture that you shouldn’t have emotions, or if you do, only the “positive” ones. It’s okay to be happy, cheerful, and outgoing, but even if you’re happy, be careful not to be too exuberant. We wouldn’t want people dancing in the streets!

Then there’s the New Age tyranny that only certain emotions are politically correct. To be a superior person, you’re supposed to go around with a feeling of gratitude at all times. Anger, grief, disgust, resentment, pain, hopelessness – these are signs that you are not who you ought to be, and certainly, “not spiritual.”

In fact, however, all emotions are an essential aspect of what it means to be alive.
Your grief is beautiful, your shyness, your reticence, your pain and hopelessness. All of these emotions are the truth of your life and everyone’s life, so why would you want to miss knowing this? Every single human being has been hit with crippling grief — no one gets out without having their heart broken. If you don’t experience the richness of your grief, the way it deepens you and opens your heart, you will not share this universal experience. What gets lost in these rules-not-to-feel is what it means to be human.

If you observe, you will notice that your feelings come and go like the weather. Some days it rains; some days the sun shines, but none of it lasts. We all know the weather will change and expect it to. Feelings are the same – if you watch them and allow them to be as they are, you will notice them morphing and changing — floating by like clouds.

Instead of standing guard over yourself to make sure you only experience the correct emotions, how delightful instead to watch the passing parade of human feelings that float through like the weather, ever changing. If you remain at war with your emotional life, you run the risk of missing the truth of yourself, the truth of the experience of your life.

© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth