I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame.
I simply follow my own feelings.
—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Is it possible to be confident in following your feelings? Who criticizes your emotions more…others or yourself? When did it become taboo to feel your emotions?

These are musings worth pondering. Feelings can offer great insight…if we give ourselves permission to actually feel them. However, it seems we have been taught to criticize our feelings instead.

I would imagine I’m not alone in the experiences I have had around emotions and expressing them. There is a general discomfort around feeling emotions, much less the terror of sharing them with someone else. Yes, terror sounds dramatic, but the vulnerability of expressing emotions can trigger a real sense of fear. It’s important and necessary to acknowledge that fear in order to work with it and let it be a guide to a healthier response.

Here are some of the reactions I have experienced when sharing my emotions:

    Telling me that I shouldn’t feel that way.

This is a damaging response to someone who chooses to share their feelings. To me, it feels highly judgmental and full of shame. Nobody gets to tell me how I should or shouldn’t feel. I feel how I feel and that is my right. I don’t need to feel looked down upon because of how I feel nor feel like there is something wrong with me for feeling what I feel. My reaction is mine to have without being told how I should feel.

    Dismissing or ignoring me

The blatant non-engagement or dismissiveness of the feelings shared also carries criticism or judgment, this time non-verbally. Not responding is, in and of itself, a response. There may be a myriad of reasons as to why someone chose not to engage, but the interpretation of that message, though varied, can lead to future repression of emotions. To be clear, this is different than sitting quietly in support with another person.

    Claiming to understand yet continuing in the same manner of dismissing or shaming

This response has always been a confusing one for me. I don’t quite understand how someone can say they understand how I feel without actually acknowledging what was shared. The avoidance or dismissiveness has a slightly different presentation but still yields a sense of not being heard. After a while, I find it makes more sense to stop beating my head against a wall. My habit around this behavior is to stop sharing how I feel with that particular person. It is easier and more productive for me to be with my emotions myself instead of seeking emotional support from someone else.

    Defense of the other when sharing my feelings

Another interesting response to sharing my feelings, this time in response to another person, is when the listener takes the side of the other party and starts defending them. This, too, results in a feeling of criticism and shame for feeling how I feel. It feels like a finger-wagging, “You should know better than to get upset about that because he/she…(fill in the blank).” My inner response tends to be one of, “I should’ve kept my mouth shut.” I hold the intention to some day have the courage to stand up for myself and how I feel.

    The other person taking my emotions personally

This reaction falls into my eye-roll category. No, not a response of love and acceptance, but I’m human…a work-in-progress. I’m really ready for the day when speaking about emotions is more normalized and not so taboo. I passionately crave for the comfort level to increase around both feeling emotions as well as speaking about them. There is a lot of unhealthy projecting that occurs because of the fear of criticism and rejection.

    Assuming the worst of me in ANTICIPATION of an emotional reaction

When I get this response from others, typically from those who know me, it feels like a big ‘ol sucker punch with a dagger to the heart for good measure. There's a overly defensive response before I have a chance to even take in the situation. It easily sends me into a tailspin of wondering what I have done that was so wrong to make someone think so low of me. I start replaying what I shared with them or what inspired them to think I was so emotionally unstable. This response stings me more sharply than any of the others, which carry enough bite of their own. Considering the source doesn’t always make things better, either. I can see how this is a game of emotional chess, planning many steps ahead, in an effort for the ‘assumer’ to be in control and stave off any need for anyone to feel anything other than happy…except for the sting to me.

I am hungry to be where Mozart is…to simply follow my own feelings. I have a pattern of being an emotional care-taker for others, prioritizing their emotional well-being over mine. As I am learning to flip the script, I am being met with responses like those I shared above. I continue to explore my emotions in my journaling and meditations to support my own emotional well-being. I am learning to love and accept my emotional responses to people and situations, using them as stepping stones. I am learning to trust loving and supporting myself through what I have coined ‘emotional perfection’-the need to be emotionally balanced in the presence of others so they all feel comfortable. I am embracing the concept of safety within the realms of emotional ‘imperfection’-giving myself permission to feel how I feel while giving others permission to feel how they feel.

Which of the reactions outlined above have you experienced?

What impact did it have on you?

Which, if any, of the reactions outlined above have you expressed to someone else when they shared with you?

Were you aware that you were making that choice? If so, what prompted that response within you?

Walking together in light, love, and peace 🙏

Criticism of Emotions Blog

When I choose to follow my feelings, I feel alive.

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