In defense of feelings
Not a day goes by without me thinking, “I’m tired.” Not a day goes by without me scolding myself and rattling off a list of people who are more tired than me, with much more things to do, too.
A recent conversation with a friend brought this to light. Being my usual sulking self, I proclaimed I was exhausted. Then quickly, I switched gears. I concluded that I didn’t have a right to say that because more people were more exhausted than I was, and anyway, people had it worse than I did. She told me to stop invalidating my feelings. In response, a strange feeling bubbled up inside me. It was a mixture of embarrassment and intrigue. There is a word for what I was doing, and more importantly, it’s a common phenomenon.
Emotional invalidation is already present in childhood. We are taught by the world to not cry, to be happy, and to shrug off things that anger us because they just “work that way.” We become living bottles, the feelings inside us bubbling to our rims until we’re so full. Tiny cracks dot the glass — a testament to the feelings pent up inside and raging to break free.
Adolescence is when everything spirals out of us. We have minds, we have hearts. We, the bottles, are reduced to shards. We play a constant game of rising and falling because people left and right either allow us to shout our thoughts and feelings into the void, or seal them in tight.
Adulthood? I haven’t gotten there yet, but I will see for myself. But I hope that by then I would have learned that we are more than just bottles that leak or break.
All of us have different capacities. Foreign breaking points and distant barriers. The person you’re sitting beside on the long commute home could probably shrug off a breakup in two weeks, though bitterly, while it takes you five months and an eternity to nurse a stinging comment. Perhaps it’s the reverse. You’re titanium, plodding through hours and hours of schoolwork into the late night, while someone breaks down when faced with two pages of an assignment. There’s no reason to be proud or be beaten up over either scenario.
No one should tell you how to feel. There are times when people do it without meaning to. That’s fine; that’s where resiliency comes in. Still, wouldn’t it be a greater world where people are allowed to cry over trivial things and to rage because of irritating circumstances? It would not be a sign of immaturity or privilege. It would be a sign of humanity.
Feelings are real. Studied and molded with definitions over the course we have had on this earth, they can be summed up as an emotional reaction. Without getting into the hard science, feelings shape a person and differentiate them from other people. Then why are we hammering people to feel a certain way or deny a feeling, unless we want a future generation of malfunctioning robots?
Feelings shift. I’m impatient—a product of a decade-and-a-half of screens and remotes and the internet. I’m quick to anger when something doesn’t work all of a sudden. Maybe decades earlier, I would have marveled at the ease and efficiency of today’s technology. But this is who I am, and I am working on tempering it. Feelings aren’t boxed atoms; they’re formed by our current state and our evolution as people, passing through generations and revolutions, handed down like a present and witness.
Feelings are our responsibility. While I do believe sharing what we feel should be a norm by now, I also think we have to find the right balance for it. Morals need to intertwine with our emotions and our upbringing. Expressing yourself is one thing, and using it to purposely hurt others is another thing.
If you’re tired, it’s simple: You’re tired. Never mind the fact that you seem like you’re the only one in the entire class who seems irked by that teacher’s comment in class the other day. If you’ve had an upsetting day, then you have a right to be upset. Never mind if the things that upset you were miniscule and you think that if you were a different person, you wouldn’t have bothered. This is who you are — the two sides of the same coin. Face it. Face yourself.
Let’s stop with this ideal that it’s cool to be nonchalant, absorbing hurt and pain like a bottomless well. I see you, humans masquerading as bottles. Have truth crack you wide open. We’ll be waiting on the sidelines, hands ready to applaud.
We’re in the 21st century and on the cusp of a new year. It’s high time we accepted people for being who they truly are, whether or not they’re strong or weak according to society’s miraculously high standards. Seeing people react to the everyday challenges of life stirs up a feeling inside me: gratitude, knowing that people are brave enough to bare their souls.
This is what I feel, of course. You could feel differently. Here’s a lifetime supply of validation for every feeling you have.
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Andrea Salvador, 15, is a student of St. Paul College Pasig.
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