There are many things that make up our positive emotional wellbeing, with hugs and affection, and the expression of feelings being at the centre of our emotional development. Those of us who know hugs and kisses and have the skills to express how we are feeling take this for granted and we need to understand there are people around us who don’t know these things. We need to find them and support them.
Without these qualities we are at greater risk of suffering with anxiety, depression, fatigue, exhaustion or a nervous breakdown. We might not know how to address our psychological/emotional issues because an inherent emotional management system is missing from our makeup, and we may not realise we need to assess our emotional wellbeing, having never done so, and having never learned from the adults around us to do so.
When parents are unable to express positive feelings toward their children, the long term effects impact several generations, rendering this inability something we should all be addressing collectively. This unlearned skill manifests in a domino effect – affecting children, then grandchildren, and so on and so on, until the pattern forms in several different families who don’t know how to express how they’re feeling, forcing children to crave something they know they are missing but cannot find because the adults around them are emotionally disengaged.
These children grow up not feeling, and they don’t know how to express themselves, nor analyse their emotions, nor do they want to. They do not want to ask themselves how they’re feeling because they do not understand. And they do not want to tell their parents how they are feeling or ask their parents themselves how they are feeling, because they know not to talk of such things. Or, it just doesn’t occur to them to discuss with their parents about feelings in the first place.
Being able to openly discuss our feelings with our loved ones, our partners, colleagues and our friends is so important for communication and our own emotional wellbeing. If we want to be better understood we need to stop cringing, stop feeling embarrassed, stop blushing and ignore the anxiety that wells up in our chests, when we open our mouths to say what we’re feeling.
I understand people bottle things because feelings are deeply personal and sharing them with others puts them out in the open to be pondered and scrutinised and perhaps even criticised. However, the world truly would be a better place if we all “switched on” instead of “switching off” and started nurturing our feelings. They affect us more than we know. Switching off our feelings is cutting off a human trait, and we are depriving ourselves of a core need.
The Australian Education Minister should introduce a subject called Emotions into the curriculum for all Australian primary schools, because, after the many people I have met during my life who completely misunderstand emotions thus ignore the feelings of others, I have come to realise this is a problem affecting the whole of society.
It’s not ok to tell our partners we are fine and nothing is wrong. Down the track when something is missing and we can’t establish what it is, when we have a house, two cars, three children and a Labrador, what we are not using is our voices. What is missing is feeling and vocalising our feelings. Don’t be ashamed when expressing your feelings. It’s vital if we want to create a more harmonious, empathetic, loving and caring world.
The RUOK? initiative is a great step forward to achieving this but we can’t just tell people how we are feeling on this day once a year; we must be able to do it every day. We can only begin doing this daily when it becomes a habit, and it will only become a habit when it is ingrained in us; when it has been taught to us consistently during our youngest years. Which is why we need to start teaching those who miss out on this vital lesson at home.
I was raised by parents who were very affectionate – people who often told me they loved me, who were never ashamed or embarrassed saying it; they understood the goodness that came from their affirmations. They, however, did not know how to communicate to me or to others other feelings outside these three words, and I fear a large percentage of the Australian population who are like them, will suffer emotionally and psychologically for this misgiving, when the side effects are preventable.
I divulge my most delicate feelings to others, without feeling weak, mushy, over-sentimental or foolish because I understand EMOTIONS and FEELINGS left unexplored damage our psyche more in the long term. Bottling things up may lead to: a nervous breakdown, anxiety, exhaustion, fatigue and/or depression.
Emotions are missing from society. Emotion is taught in primary schools using words such as happy, sad, and angry, but emotion is so much more than that. As we age, feelings become much more than just happy and sad and angry, and many adults are running off to psychologists wondering what’s wrong with them, when they just haven’t been taught how to feel, nor how to express the mental isolation they are experiencing due to not being able to tell others how they feel, good or bad.
Outwardly and openly tell the people you love, live and work with, how you are feeling; give detailed accounts, not just one sentence per conversation. Expressing emotion does not make us emotional or sensitive – it makes us human, and in this fast-paced world where nobody wants to emotionalise for fear it will get in the way of routine, corporate relationships, deadlines, or productivity – I fear we are well on our way to losing our most inherent traits: care and empathy.