Somewhere along the line in the past 50 years, America has transformed from a relatively stoic society to one in which every day is like a giant primal scream therapy session, and one conducted by an unlicensed therapist at that. Everybody is supposed to feel everything and then tell everyone else about it. It’s gotten so that we now seem to equate deep feelings with deep thinking.
Television shows are filled with crying, cursing, wailing, wallowing, the gnashing of teeth, and the smashing of furniture. The constant exposure to such programming reinforces the idea that such expression is normal, thus creating a vicious cycle.
Nowhere is our constant emoting more apparent than on social media, particularly Facebook on which people routinely provide the rest of us with the play-by-play of their emotional state. In case you are so overwhelmed by your own emotions that words fail, you may choose from exactly 200 emoticons to show the world your current mood. Posting such updates is, of course, an invitation to all your friends, and all your friends’ friends, to form an emotional bucket brigade who pour criticism or encouragement on your emotional fire as they see fit.
Gone are the days when a person was expected to meet life’s inevitable crises with a measure of faith, a dash of grace, and a certain degree of you-can’t-beat-me stoicism. Faith and grace, those twin sisters of strength, were long ago run out of town, and stoicism has been replaced by spectacism, a freshly-coined word meaning “to make a spectacle of one’s self.”
Guess what, America? You don’t have to share every feeling. It’s not a social requirement. We don’t need to know what you feel; most of the time, we don’t want to know what you feel because we have our own feelings going on over here, although your narcissistic obsession with your own feelings might blind you to that fact.
So, here’s some advice, America: Shut up about your feelings.
Just shut up.
Stop giving voice to every feeling, and I say this for your own good. Living in a constant state of ginned up outrage and self-created drama is not healthy nor natural.
First, giving voice to emotions often gives them a reality and a permanence that they wouldn’t otherwise have. If you don’t give voice to every emotion, if you don’t analyze it and put words to it, it may simply go away. You feel blue, for example. Maybe, you feel blue just because; but describe it and explain it, and you give life to your blueness as surely as Dr. Frankenstein gave life to The Creature.
Second, have some faith in yourself. You don’t have to be defeated by every one of life’s trials and tribulations. The Greatest Generation became great, not because they were better people than we are; not because they were braver, stronger, more moral, or happier. They were the greatest because they refused to surrender to the overwhelming emotional situation in which they found themselves. They set their fear aside; they set their lives aside, and did the job which needed to be done. (Ironic, isn’t it, that they did this for their grandchildren who now throw themselves on Facebook’s floor and fling tantrums in every direction?)
Third, unfiltered, uncontrolled emotion is easily manipulated emotion. The powers that be, and there are powers that be, on Madison Avenue, Wall Street, and in the nation’s Capital have a very vested interest in seeing that you are easily manipulated. They don’t want you to think—just react—and buy this product, buy this idea. Such manipulation goes a long way toward explaining why some powers that be have already moved on to the next step, which is to tell you what to feel.
Emotions are like a corral of wild stallions. We need to respect their power and ride them with care and caution. We can’t just fling open the gate and allow them to stampede us. If America is to restore the emotional balance clearly lacking in our society, then we must lasso those emotions and lead them back into the corral. It’s not healthy to leave the horses in charge of the stable.
Original caption: Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat. CPhoM. Robert F. Sargent, June 6, 1944. 26-G-2343.