On Thursday mornings, Osh and I go to this sweet little class that takes place in the woods. The teacher creates lessons using nature as the playground… like making paint from mud and ‘cooking’ stew with leaves and rocks and sticks.
It’s very cool! Honestly, I think I love it as much as Osh.
But, what truly makes the class so amazing is that the teacher really sees each of the little kiddos for who they are and meets them right where they are at.
Last week, his teacher saw Osh swinging a stick around. So, she headed right over to him and said…
‘Osh! Isn’t it fun to hit sticks? Come over here so I can show you something… it’s a stick hitting tree! You can hit this tree as hard as you want with the stick for as long as you want! Watch me, I’ll do it first.’
She picked up a stick and started hitting the tree.
‘This feels good, Osh! Here, you try!’
Osh picked up the stick, hit the tree, and giggled before eventually moving on.
I almost cried because I was so touched by this moment.
Rather than shaming Osh for trying to get aggression out she showed him how to express himself in a safe (for both himself and others), healthy way.
She could have shut him down and shamed him, making him feel wrong or misunderstood. But she didn’t. She met him where he was at, saw him for who he is, and helped him to express what was coming up for him.
Let that sink in for a moment.
How does this story relate to you and your emotions?
I see women all the time shutting themselves down and shaming themselves for feeling emotions other than happiness.
In the last few days, here are just some of the little ways I’ve heard this come through in conversation:
‘I have a great life. I just hate that I’m not happy all the time!’
‘This is so silly! I need to get over this [insert feeling].’
‘I hate that I’m like this! So emotional!’
‘I’m so sorry I’m crying. I don’t know why I do this.’
In our society, people really really really want to be happy.
And, I get it. I really like to feel happy, too!
But when we create the unrealistic expectation of 24/7 happiness for ourselves or others — often based on things we heard as a kid (like ‘go up to your room and don’t come down until you have a smile on your face’ or ‘big kids don’t cry’), other experiences we’ve had, or other messages we’ve received — it can actually hurt us.
That’s right. An unrealistic expectation of happiness can hurt you.
Because in the process, we end up demonizing and shutting down our other emotions. And, when we demonize those other emotions, it’s easy to feel like we are wrong or broken or failing because we can’t ‘just be happy.’
Happiness is a feeling and feelings are fleeting.
‘Happy’ will come and it will go and it will come again. Of course there are choices we can make to facilitate experiencing more of certain emotions but at the end of the day… we humans are created to feel it all.
When we judge ourselves for feeling some of the less ‘desirable’ emotions, like loneliness, sadness, or anger, we shut down the natural emotional process. We pack those emotions in. We aren’t free to move on. And, we get weighted down by the heaviness of shame.
Alternatively, when we step back and notice where we’ve let unrealistic emotional expectations creep in, shift those expectations, and in doing so release the guilt, shame, and judgment, we are free to fully feel our emotions.
We ultimately feel better when we have permission to feel our whole spectrum of human emotions, which allows us to move through them and ultimately move on.
As an adult, you might not have a teacher like Osh to show you a tree for whacking sticks. But, you can be that person for yourself.
If you’re feeling happy today, great!
If you’re not, how can you meet yourself where you’re at, see yourself for who you are, and create a safe space to express what’s coming up for you… shame-free?