Your feelings shouldn’t be a mystery

Nicole McIsaac, Managing Editor

Illustration by (Sarah Hardiman)

If there’s one thing society says you can’t have, it’s feelings.

I mean, when something goes wrong, you should automatically feel nothing and move on from the situation. Right?

If only it was that simple.

There is no reason why showing emotion should be taboo — whether it’s smiling over your achievements or bawling your eyes out at rejection. It’s okay to process what your heart and mind are feeling.

And you may be asking yourself: “Why is there such a chokehold behind people showing their true emotions to others and feeling what they have to feel?”

While I can’t answer for everyone in the world, the majority of the time it boils down to a fear of showing weakness, getting hurt, facing rejection or invalidation of what’s going on in someone’s personal life. In a society where a large portion of individuals don’t share how they’re feeling, it could seem like you are the only one floundering among friends or peers. I often feel that those around me are encountering the same obstacles I face in life, or nonetheless share a similar mental state.

However, others can start to feel like they must constantly compose their emotions based on reactions from others.

Often, people who are feeling such strong emotions are met face-to-face with sayings such as, “you don’t have any reason to cry,” “people have it worse than you” or “calm down.” While the individuals saying those things might have the right intentions, it’ll certainly make the people experiencing those emotions feel invalidated.

For some, hiding feelings may correspond to picking up more responsibilities, like telling yourself that you are simply overreacting or feeling the constant need to find a distraction to avoid understanding what is really going on in your brain. Suppressing your feelings is oftentimes the easy way out of an already tough situation to digest.

While some might not recognize the build-up of constant tucked-away emotions can have long-term health effects on individuals in society, it is important to recognize the physical impact that hiding feelings can have on a human body.

In addition to feelings of anxiety or depression, a research study from The University of Texas at Austin uncovered that emotion suppression leads to increased feelings of aggression — making those feel worse about the situation at large.

By just feeling what follows a situation or decision, one can avoid the amplified emotions that would come later down the line.

To put this into perspective, college students encounter this situation before beginning their journey at any university. Leaving their hometown nest for the first time to be thrown into a deep end of the unknown world of higher education can be a time that piles on a lot of emotions that people sometimes don’t know how to process.

While many people don’t hone in on how hard that transition can be, it is important to recognize that the outside societal factors presented in a new college environment prohibit students from expressing how they are really feeling.

According to a research study published in the National Library of Medicine, students placed in this new environment with unfamiliar people may respond by “being more guarded about expressing their emotions.”

“Given the intense emotions that are part of this transition, one critical factor should be the way individuals regulate their emotions,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Recent work has shown that one common way that individuals regulate emotions is through expressive suppression – that is, by attempting to inhibit their emotion-expressive behavior.”

Students who are so engulfed in the move-in and process of making friends are often concerned over feeling what society says they need to feel during a large transition in their life. This example is just one in which people can’t truly understand and process what they need to because of situations in their life influencing them.

There have been many instances throughout my college journey that I have felt I was the only person drowning in emotional baggage. And that’s just not the case. By talking to the right people and letting myself feel what my body wanted to feel, I was able to heal from situations that I didn’t think I would recover from.

Despite the way society and others may make you feel about your feelings, you aren’t alone and you aren’t crazy.

It is important to express what you need to express. Maybe that could correlate with talking to a close friend or family member, journaling your thoughts, letting out a cry or seeking professional counseling.

Feel what you have to feel in order to heal and learn from the situation that you are experiencing. It is a critical part of understanding who you are and what you care about in life.