You just got into a massive argument with a family member. And now you storm out of the room.
How could he say such things?
How could he be such a douchebag?
Does he even care about you at all?
You slam the door behind you. Now alone in your room, your blood is on fire. You’re so angry you don’t know what to do. You just want to scream.
You take a breath.
“Keep it together,” you think.
You’re better than that. You can control your emotions.
But that pillow looks oh so alluring. If you could just let out one scream and maybe give it a punch or two, you’d feel better.
No, no, no, no. You couldn’t possibly do that because…
Society says you should control your emotions
It’s not proper to be so emotional. You must appear composed, like you “have it together.” You have to be perfect, and perfect people don’t show strong emotions.
These are the messages society tells us. Since we’re children, public displays of strong emotion are said to be bad. Pout too much or throw a temper tantrum publicly, and you would’ve been in deep doodie. You need to be strong. So what do you do? You bury those emotions and tell them to go away.
But instead of going away, they just linger. Resentment grows and you begin to feel angry, depressed or vindictive during the day.
You see, the emotions are still there.
They’re just creeping out in unexpected places. Which is why burying them and trying to appear perfect just aren’t the answer.
You are not a robot
Human beings are human beings—not freakin’ robots. Your body is built to experience the full spectrum of emotions: anger, sadness, depression, happiness and joy. One emotion is not better than another, even if mainstream culture says so.
Your body is not designed to fit into some mold where you’re always composed and happy.
It’s OK to be sad, frustrated and angry. You are human. You are supposed to feel these emotions. Even people like the Dalai Lama do.
When you try to bury your emotions, you’re suppressing your own human nature. You’re fighting yourself. How can that be good?
And speaking of which…
The body operates by rules. So why fight it?
One of the great things about being human is the level of control we have over our environment. If you’re too hot, you can fire up the air conditioning. If you’re hungry, you can open the fridge and grab a snack. If you have an itch, scratch it.
We have so much control over our worlds, that we often forget there are many things we can’t control. Like certain rules of the body.
If you don’t drink enough water, you’ll get thirsty. You can’t override millions of years of biological evolution and go days without drinking water, even if you try to repeatedly tell yourself you can. Your body is in charge. If it isn’t given water, it will suffer.
If you try and stay awake for a week, you’ll feel extremely exhausted. The body needs sleep, no matter how much you try to convince it otherwise.
Again, the body plays by rules. And so it goes with emotions as well. If you become angry or upset about something, no matter how much you try and tell yourself you can overcome the emotion and shouldn’t feel it, you’ll still feel it. The body is designed to experience emotions.
This is human nature. If you fight your body’s innate desire for water, sleep or experiencing emotion, you will lose. Because it is in the body’s programming to play by these rules. And you know what?
That’s OK. Learn to accept your emotions.
So I should start throwing public tantrums as a grown up dude?
No, that’s not the point at all.
The difference between us grownup dudes and children is we have a greater awareness of the world we live in, social norms and our bodies. So if you feel the urge to throw a public tantrum, I recommend sending yourself to your room and screaming into that pillow as mentioned.
But there is a better way. Because, really, screaming into a pillow doesn’t solve the problem, just like a child throwing a temper tantrum doesn’t either.
You can be angry and not punch a pillow. And this is where mindfulness comes in.
When you’re mindful of your emotions, you acknowledge them. This can be something as simple as saying to yourself, “I feel angry.” Then just be angry. Don’t fight it. If you need to say, “I feel angry” again or even 10 times, then do so.
Being angry doesn’t mean you have to yell at someone, scream into a pillow or throw something. You can sit still and be angry. You can be quiet and be angry. What I do recommend is that if you are angry, remove yourself from the situation causing you anger, if it is possible.
But once you become aware of your anger. Start to question it pragmatically. Ask yourself, what can I do about my feelings? Here are three scenarios and questions to explore:
Should I try and resolve the situation that made me angry?
Should I leave the situation that made me angry?
Or should I just let it go?
No temper tantrums are necessary, just take ownership of your feelings. That is being mindful of your emotions. And that is how to experience them, truly let go of them and move on with your life.
Punch the pillow or put it down. Really, either is OK.
Both scenarios are better than suppressing your emotions.
You are human. Your body is designed for it.
Don’t let society put you in a box and tell you who you should be or shape your self image.
You are you.
And you are good just as you are.
So put down the pillow, punch it or give it a hug. Whichever way you choose is fine. Accept your emotions, accept who you are and your human nature, and you’ll likely be less driven to punch or scream into anything anytime soon.