You can’t Photoshop feelings

21 May 2019 | Columns

Pull out quote: “The only certainty is uncertainty and yet we are not navigating this frailty successfully or sustainably.”

Justicia Shipena

I came across a man at a workshop I attended and he said to me: "Write what you are feeling. Tell the truth. Write like nobody's reading."

And just like that I was invited to show up authentically to my pain. It was a simple act, but nothing short of a revolution for me. It was this revolution that started in this blank notebook that shaped my life’s work.

The secret, silent correspondence with myself. Like a gymnast I started to move beyond the rigidity of denial into what I have now come to call emotional agility. Life's beauty is inseparable from its fragility. We are young until we are not. We walk down the streets sexy until one day we realise that we are unseen.

We nag our children and one day realise that there is silence where that child once was, who is now making his or her way in the world. We are healthy until diagnosis brings us to our knees. The only certainty is uncertainty and yet we are not navigating this frailty successfully or sustainably.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) tells us that depression is now the single leading cause of disability globally, outstripping cancer and heart disease. At a time of greater complexity and unprecedented technological, political and economic change, we are seeing how, more and more, people are tending to lockdown into rigid responses to their emotions.

On the one hand we might obsessively brood on our feelings - getting stuck inside our heads. Hocked on being right or victimised by our newsfeed. On the other hand we might bottle our emotions, pushing them aside and permitting only those emotions deemed legitimate.

Many of us either judge ourselves for having so-called ‘bad emotions’ like sadness, anger or even grief, or actively try to push aside these feelings. We do this not only to ourselves but also to the people we love; we may inadvertently shame them out of emotions seen as negative, jump to solutions and fail to help them to see these emotions as inherently valuable.

Normal, natural emotions are now seen as good or bad. However, being positive has become a new form of moral correctness. People with cancer are automatically told to just stay positive. Women are told to stop being so angry and the list goes on. It's a tyranny. It's a tyranny of positivity and it's cruel, unkind and ineffective. We do it to ourselves and we do it to others.

If there is one common feature of brooding, bottling or false positivity, it’s this: They are all rigid responses. If there is a single lesson we can learn from the inevitable fall of apartheid, it is that rigid denial doesn’t work.

It’s unsustainable for individuals, family and societies. As we watch the ice caps melt, it is unsustainable for our planet. When emotions are pushed aside or ignored, they get stronger. You might think you’re in control of unwanted emotions when you ignore them, but in fact they control you.

Internal pain always comes out. Always. Who pays the price? We do. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-happiness. I like being happy; I’m a pretty happy person. But when we push aside normal emotions to embrace false positivity, we lose our capacity to develop skills to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

I have had many people telling me what they don’t want to feel. They say things like: “I don’t want to try because I don’t want to feel disappointed.” Or: “I just want this feeling to go away.”

“I understand,” I say to them, but you have dead people’s goals. Only dead people never get unwanted or inconvenienced by their feelings. Only dead people never get stressed, never get their hearts broken and never experience the disappointment that comes with failure.

Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family, or leave the world a better place, without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.

Similar News


A fish rots from the head

4 hours ago | Columns

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” Mark Twain once said.In the end, truth will...

Voting on empty bellies

1 day - 13 November 2019 | Columns

Three children have died from malnutrition at Amarika in the Omusati Region during the past three months, while an investigation by Namibian Sun has found...

Spare a thought for students

2 days ago - 12 November 2019 | Columns

Namibians students have been greatly unhappy this year. And seemingly, no one has been listening. In fact we wonder if those at whom the student...

Dealing with indecision

2 days ago - 12 November 2019 | Columns

Evany van Wyk I have always been and will continue to be honest about my utter inability to make a decision. It’s something that just...

We need to embrace the Cloud

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Columns

Syed Asad Abbas There’s a lot of hype about the Cloud, however what comes to mind when you hear that your software will sit in...

Panga attack should wake nation

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Columns

Yesterday 26-year-old Sam Nauyoma Petrus appeared in the Ohangwena Magistrate’s Court amid extraordinary scenes of his out-of-tune behaviour.Petrus is accused of killing all but three...

When things go south

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Columns

Frank Chikane's book 'Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki' gives a riveting, behind-the-scenes account of the removal of Mbeki as the neighbouring...

Our rape crisis

1 week ago - 07 November 2019 | Columns

Today we carry some shocking revelations from rapists about why they forced their victims to have sex.Among these were being under the influence of alcohol...

Between rights and terrorism

1 week ago - 05 November 2019 | Columns

Reports that some people who just returned to Namibia from exile in Botswana recently have crawled back into their political cocoons to demand the cessation...

What’s his deal?

1 week ago - 05 November 2019 | Columns

Elizabeth JosephAlthough I have never voted, I think everyone should at least have an idea of who to vote for. I don’t. Everyone has been...

Latest News

Namcor ready to run fuel...

4 hours ago | Business

The Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) expects to take delivery of the strategic fuel storage facility next month, a company official has told Namibian Sun....

How the 'sharks' were netted

4 hours ago | Fishing

An international scandal has erupted with an exposé of more than 30 000 documents released by WikiLeaks which show that an Icelandic fishing company, SAMHERJI,...

NSFAF explains payment woes

4 hours ago | Education

The Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has blamed the delayed payment of non-tuition fees to students on the unavailability of funds and its internal...

Hospital ­denies Itula ­allegation

4 hours ago | Health

The regional directorate of health for Ohangwena has denied an allegation by independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula that a patient at Eenhana district hospital had...

Devil's claw under threat

4 hours ago | Environment

The increase in illegal grazing in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest, as well as illegal fences in the N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community...

More dark days ahead

4 hours ago | Sports

The Fifa normalisation committee says it still has to consult its lawyers before making a decision on the way forward for the Namibia Premier League...

Mining tourney hailed as a...

4 hours ago | Sports

A three-day tournament that featured different mining employees from across the country, which took place at Otjiwarongo from Friday to Sunday, has been described as...

They have to go, says...

18 hours ago | Crime

Staff ReporterHighly placed sources indicated this morning that President Hage Geingob is planning to jettison justice minister Sacky Shanghala and fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau from...

Namibian arrested in Malaysia for...

1 day - 13 November 2019 | Crime

A 26-year-old Namibian man has been arrested in Malaysia on suspicion of strangling and dismembering his Nigerian girlfriend. The man was arrested on Saturday in...

Load More