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

 

Ecopreneurship a viable way to stimulate the economy

1 week ago - 26 June 2020 | Columns

Desmond KheibebIn the last few years it seems as we have created an unstoppable chain of events which has led to the issue of climate...

Staying safe and secure whilst being ­productive

1 month - 29 May 2020 | Columns

Jan Coetzee Namibia may seem remote and often disconnected from the world, but things came starkly into focus. We are part of the global village...

But when, Africa, will you arise?

1 month - 26 May 2020 | Columns

You have been robbed and pillaged. Most of the songs written about you speak of protest and shame. But when, Africa, will you arise? Your...

Staying safe and secure whilst working smart and being...

1 month - 15 May 2020 | Columns

Jan CoetzeeNamibia may seem remote and often disconnected from the world, but things came starkly into focus. We are part of the global village and...

China's anti-pandemic efforts deserve objective and fair judgement

1 month - 14 May 2020 | Columns

Zhang YimingWINDHOEK The Covid-19 outbreak has dragged the human race into an unprecedented and fierce war with a highly infectious disease on a global scale....

Lessons from Nujoma's leadership

1 month - 12 May 2020 | Columns

Sam Nujoma is 91 today. He led Namibians through a bitter revolution for 33 years - 23 years of which were characterised by a bloody...

The social contract during corona

2 months ago - 14 April 2020 | Columns

The coronavirus has impacted Namibia and the world in so many ways, but it goes without saying that the true cost of the pandemic is...

Virus detected, disruption activated

3 months ago - 27 March 2020 | Columns

Chaze NalisaThere was a time, literally a couple of weeks ago, when someone sneezed and the reaction of those around them would be a simple,...

The building blocks of an empire

3 months ago - 24 March 2020 | Columns

Justicia Shipena Imagine a world where every day you have to worry about the threat of a second alien invasion. Military officials plug a...

Corona virus: our reality

3 months ago - 17 March 2020 | Columns

Octavia TsibesCovid-19, also known as the coronavirus, ladies and gentlemen. To be honest with you, when news broke out that Covid-19 has landed on Namibian...

Latest News

Big honour for Air Namibia’s...

1 day - 03 July 2020 | People

MICHELLINE NAWATISES Victor Nghifindaka, who hails from the Ondobe-yeno village in the Ohangwena Region, has been appointed as a member of the International Air...

Swapo exposes Nujoma to attacks...

1 day - 03 July 2020 | Politics

STAFF REPORTERWINDHOEKFormer youth minister Kazenambo Kazenambo says Swapo must take the blame for founding president Sam Nujoma being called a 'thug and liar' in parliament...

Mask-less Iipumbu spat on me:...

1 day - 03 July 2020 | Politics

STAFF REPORTERWINDHOEKSwapo MP Natangwe Iithete says he shoved Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) counterpart Kalimbo Iipumbu in the National Assembly on Wednesday because the opposition...

Conquering the logistics world every...

1 day - 03 July 2020 | People

Michelline Nawatises Oscar Kanovengi was born in Windhoek on 17 September 1978, the year in which the Herero Paramount Chief Clemence Kapuuo was assassinated....

Child marriage still prevalent

1 day - 03 July 2020 | Cultural

ELLANIE SMITWINDHOEKA total of 7% of girls in Namibia are married before the age of 18 and 2% are married before their 15th birthday.Although the...

Reconciliation too loose a concept

1 day - 03 July 2020 | Opinion

Reconciliation has become a buzzword lately in the National Assembly, but this has only solicited insults and physical scuffles.Part of the problem is that the...

Mayana community demonstrates over land

1 day - 03 July 2020 | Economics

The community of Mayana in the Kavango East region held a demonstration against what they termed “illegal land grabbing” by the Mayana Small Scale Irrigation...

Harnessing curiosity

1 day - 03 July 2020 | Banking

Mariselle Stofberg The diverse and ambitious Marion Scheün advises young individuals to find something that they are passionate about and cultivate that into a career....

Quarantine options under stage four

1 day - 03 July 2020 | Health

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEKPeople who do not want to commit themselves to quarantine facilities funded by the state will have the option to do so once the...

Load More