I am one of those people that simply cannot and do not want to hide my feelings. If I feel excited to see you, then you will know it. If I haven’t seen you for a while and I get to pick you up at the airport, I am that person who will scream with delight when I see you and will run to embrace you, possibly knocking people and barriers down along the way to get to you. If my heart feels like it is breaking because I miss my child, I have lost my pet silk worm or if I feel lonely or rejected, I will cry. At times I will unashamedly cry or laugh out loud during adverts and in movies whether it is in the privacy of my own home or in public. I have even been known to sit in a ball and cry after giving a talk.
Why stopping and sharing instead of stopping and sneering could very well save a life
It was during the 16 days of Activism, my book ‘The Relationship Magnet’ had just been released, and I was doing a talk about domestic violence and abuse to a room full of women at ‘The Centre for the Book’ in Cape Town. The room was packed. I never expected so many women to show up, they even had to carry extra chairs in. I told my story, answered questions and offered advice, tools and tips. As I ended the session, the women got up and formed a line in front of me, some wanted to speak to me privately, others just wanted to give me a hug. This one woman came up to me and threw herself into my arms and started sobbing. Just thinking back to that moment brings tears to my eyes. Her pain was heart-wrenching, the sobs wracked through her whole body. I just stood there, holding her, trying my best to be strong for her, but I couldn’t help but feel sad with her and shed some tears of my own. Eventually she stopped crying and looked up at me through her tear stained face and simply said ‘thank you’ and turned around and left. I got it! I knew the immense meaning behind those two simple words.
Only a few days before that I had received an email from a lady who said that hearing me talk had given her the courage to leave her abusive relationship. Up until then she had not felt brave enough, she thought she was alone in her suffering.
As the last person left the room day, the weight of the emotions of everyone who had been in that room that day took over and I slid to the floor in a heap and sobbed uncontrollably. I sobbed from the pain I felt from them, their feelings of feeling alone, isolated, sad, depressed, abnormal, hurt, desolate, helpless and hopeless, as if there was no end to their suffering, no solution, no way out. I sobbed as I realised the magnitude of people who were suffering. I sobbed because I could relate to so many of their stories and I sobbed because of the gratitude they expressed to me. Up until then I had not realised just how much me telling my story was giving other people hope and bringing a little light into their darkness. Making them feel less abnormal and less alone. Exhausted and spent from all the crying, John, my partner at the time, scooped me up and took me home. It was the day that would change the way I lived my life forever.
I am telling you this all now so that you can understand why I choose to live my life in ‘public’ i.e. why I express my feelings of immense joy and feelings of immense pain on social media, in my blogs and books, at my talks and on YouTube. Emotions are a normal part of life and when you only ever express the good stuff on Facebook or anywhere else, everyone who is going through feelings of sadness, depression, loneliness or anything else are left feeling abnormal. Our lives today revolve around technology. We live in a world where we are being watched and observed non-stop and if everyone only ever shares their happy moments, people, especially young people, are given a false view of how life actually is.
You never know who is watching or listening and the incredible impact you have on their life.
Over the years I have been criticised, been told-off for ‘airing my dirty laundry’ or been judged for expressing any negative, or what I like to call uncomfortable, feelings. I have even been thrown the filthiest of looks and been judged for laughing and giggling and having fun. For some reason because I specialise in Emotional Intelligence, there seems to be this presumption that I have all my shit together and so therefore I am supposed to be this specimen of zen like perfection. After all, I am spiritual, and I meditate, so some people are shocked when I am not all ‘zen’. Hmmmm I guess if we could all sit around with our legs crossed on a mountain top and we did not have to think about the world’s problems, raising children or figuring out how to make money, we could all be like those short fat men who shave their heads, wear robes and be all zen. But I digress.
What is this model of zen-like perfection that people aspire to be, and expect me to be; and in order to have this, are we to remove all emotion from our lives and deny they exist. Is it not enough that people are already trying to reach for some crazy level of perfection with their bodies by getting surgeons to nip and tuck, stretch and remove, smooth out and pull out, blow up and blow out? We already have a generation of ‘humans’ who look anything but natural. Is part of this process of reaching this so-called perfection that we all remove and deny our emotions too? Well I have news for you, if we did that, then we may as well change the name of our species as well, although those names are already taken, they called robots and humanoids.
Human beings are ruled by emotion, we all have them, it’s what makes us human. The time has come to accept it and to embrace it for once and for all. And if not, then maybe it’s time to go and find yourself a space ship and go and check out the 4th rock from the sun, maybe there they have a full species of the perfect beings that you are after.
On a serious note though, there is still so much shame around emotions. I was called childish the other day for expressing my emotional pain, as if pain is only reserved for children. But then again even children are not allowed to feel. In homes, schools and other places all over the world, children are being punished, shoved onto naughty steps or into naughty corners and smacked or hit because they dare to feel and express their feelings be it anguish, anger, pain, hurt, sadness or anything else.
Listen up people! We are meant to feel emotion!
How on earth would you know what love is if you do not experience hate or indifference. How would you know what happiness is if you did not experience sadness? Or how would you know what it feels like to be connected if you have never experienced isolation or loneliness. Yet we surpass, ignore and invalidate these vital feelings that make us human. Anxiety, violence, bullying, depression are all indications of us not giving ourselves permission to feel our human feelings and to express them, indicators that our parents, our teachers or care givers have never told us that it’s okay to feel what we feel. All feelings are acceptable, yours or someone else’s, whether you understand them or not! The expression of those feelings, i.e. when you physically hurt, slap, smack, hit, kick another human being immaterial of age, race or colour, or any other living creature, because of the way you feel is however not acceptable.
Do you know that when a feeling is validated that you almost instantly feel better, within seconds, versus being told that you have no right to feel what you feel? When you are told to suck it up, to stop crying or when you are punished for feeling what you feel, you feel worse and you will continue to feel that way for hours, for days and even for years. Suppressing, denying and not dealing with emotions is the No 1 reason for keeping Therapists, Counsellors and everyone else that works in the healing profession and the legal profession, in jobs.
Think of it this way, we are all born with a heart that beats, it moves blood through our bodies. If your heart stops beating you will die, it’s a fact of life. So too are you born with emotions. Human beings need emotions to be humans and they too keep you alive. For one, they tell you when to fight or to run away when you are in danger. If you did not emotions you would be a zombie, a robot, a dead man, woman or child walking. And, you were born with a full spectrum of emotions; not only with fear, anger, love and disgust!
It’s time to wake up and to realise that. Because if you don’t, none of these adverse issues in the world are going to be spoken about and it will not go away. For anything to change in a society, it needs to be spoken about. Do you know that the biggest killer of men in the UK is suicide? Because they have been told to man-up, to not talk about their feelings. Why????? Really, I ask you why? As if talking about feelings makes them weak and less ‘manly. Not talking about their feelings is what is killing them. It makes them feel angry, depressed, sad, lonely, abnormal and disconnected! That is not living, that is existing and what drives them to end it all.
So, I come back to why I choose to live my life in public. Simply so that you can see that it is normal to have feelings, to give you permission to feel and to talk about your feelings. To show you that it is normal and that just because I am an ‘Emotional Intelligence Expert’ doesn’t mean that I don’t feel, or that I have all my shit together and that I do not feel pain. Emotions are amazing, they make your life exciting, they show you when you are on, or off, track with your life so that you can know what is best for you, your emotions are also your very own built-in bullshit detectors because they are connected to your intuition. See them as your own personal GPS system. But in order for you to use your personal GPS system, you first need to acknowledge that you have it and learn how to use it. Don’t deny the very thing that was designed especially for you to use to make your life awesome. People, young and old are killing themselves daily because they feel abnormal, because they have feelings that scare them. Because they have been raised being punished for feeling what they feel or have been raised being told to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’
Since that first email I received, I have received many more emails and messages like that; one being from a woman whose partner had killed her little boy and she had found the courage to escape with her daughter. Another from a woman who found the courage to forgive her rapist. Another from a very well known Author who after sharing my story with her daughter, who had been repeatedly beaten then peed on, was able to leave her perpetrator of a husband, because her mom had shared my story with her. I have never met any of these people in person. You see, you never know who is watching, observing or listening.