by Jenn Krebs, N.D.
I’d rather feel silly, excited or glad,
Than cranky or grumpy, discouraged or sad.
But moods are just something that happen each day,
Whatever I’m feeling inside is okay!
–Jamie Lee Curtis
My mom gave Lucy a book last week. In the middle of reading it to her the other night, I thought to myself how much I really liked the message of the book. I glanced at the front of the book and noticed who the author was. In that moment my thoughts were tempted to rant about the odd phenomenon of celebrities writing children books, but instead, I stopped myself, I paused, and I listened to the words as I read to my daughter.
We make a real point to tell our children that whatever they are feeling is okay. We don’t always give ourselves the same encouragement and the same permission. We judge our anger, frustration and sadness, while we celebrate our joy and gratitude. We push away our fear and loneliness, while we search high and low for happiness and love.
As a mom, I try to be so aware of allowing Lucy to have and express her feelings. Even so, I catch myself saying things like, “Why are you getting so upset, it’s no big deal.” If I could pause in that moment and hear myself, I would understand that what may seem like no big deal to me is in fact a big deal to Lucy. And more importantly, I might begin to realize that while I seem to have no problem enjoying and spending time with Lucy when she’s happy and joyful, I have a much more difficult time tolerating her when she is sad, frustrated and angry. And most importantly, I might be able to see that what I am actually trying to avoid (by asking her to stop crying or screaming) are my own reactions/feelings that are stirred within me when she is upset.
I talk about this conundrum with my patients and my students quite a bit. When we label our own emotions and the emotions of others as either good or bad/acceptable or unacceptable, we place judgment on emotion; and in so doing, we complicate our ability to express the full palate of all emotions. Maybe one of our parents didn’t like it when we were angry. Maybe we were told to stop every time we felt like crying. Maybe we didn’t have anyone to talk to when we were confused, disappointed, or alone. Maybe we thought we were the only ones who felt different. No matter the why, we often have heavy, dark and difficult feelings that accompany certain emotional states.
Letting our children, our partners, our friends and ourselves have and feel our emotions is vital to being human. I am reminded daily as a mother that the admirable pursuit to be mindful of our own reactions and feelings in the face of another’s emotion, whether it be a “positive” or a “negative” emotion, is so very necessary in order to raise children who will feel free “to feel.” To allow someone his/her feelings, even if it is inconvenient, embarrassing, or intolerable for us, is a gift. When we allow others to have and express their feelings, we allow ourselves to as well. When we judge others less, we judge ourselves a bit less. When we open ourselves up and stop seeing anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, frustration, and disappointment as something we need to tuck away, swallow, brush off or ignore, we open ourselves to a greater experience of all our emotions – we allow emotion to be a true wave that moves and washes through us.
On the flip side, if we can let go of the expectation that we should feel happy, grateful, joyful and loving twenty-four hours a day, we give ourselves permission to be human, real and authentically ourselves. As Dr. Seuss so aptly puts it,
Some days are yellow, some are blue
On different days, I’m different too.
You’d be surprised how many ways
I change on different colored days.