Coming right up!

Handling emotions is rarely easy. This is especially true for negative ones. When our mind is set to observe the world through logic, it is impossible to learn how to handle emotions properly. Logic may explain why we feel the way we do but it cannot feel instead of us.

Situation 1:
Noticing a pattern, parents comfort younger siblings when:
1. child gets injured because of running, jumping and/or fighting with other siblings
2. child’s emotions get hurt in some discussion with other siblings
3. parents fight with a child and send him or her to their room. Hot heads are cool off and sometimes parents are the one making the first step by hugging the child.
Parents do not come to comfort me. Maybe I am too old to need their hugs, maybe they think I am overreacting or my feelings are just not important enough for them. It must be the latter because I am only 3 years older than my sister and my siblings receive comfort when they react in the same way on the same stimuli.

Situation 2:
Christmas morning. Mother is a stay-at-home mum since there is a war going on and she could not bare the though of leaving her oldest child at home after school while she works. In case there are air crafts bombing the city, she wants to be sure that all her children are safe. Father is bound to be very resourceful because he lost his job several months ago. The company still owes him approximately 6 months of salary. Under the Christmas tree – shower gel, shower creme, body creme and two more equally unostentatious gifts. I hate the gift I got – a body creme. I mean, I do not even use that! I am angry at dad because he did not put enough effort in choosing presents. There had to be some cheep toys in the store, I am sure! I feel bad for him too. He surely did not expect that we will be this poor. I try to be strong for my parents – when I unwrap the gift, I smile and freeze that smile, check out what others got and, as soon as I find the right moment, I sneak to my bed.

Situation 3:
Dad promises to take me to a food fair if I ask 4 or 5 years older shy boy to dance with me on family celebration. Even though I am quite suspicious about him being willing and able to actually keep his promise, I do it. Why? I like to dance. I like food. I even like the boy because he is funny (disclaimer: he is not a member of my family but somebody’s neighbour). This will seem like I am dancing with him because my dad asked me to and not because I want to dance with him. Food fair came. I remained entangled by my usual duties
school – homework – work – sleep, three to four times a week
school – homework – free time – sleep when I do not have to work.
Even though I expected my dad to fail to keep his promise (because of the amount of work and lack of priorities), I feel that he let me down.

Reaction on 1, 2 and 3:
I feel neglected and unimportant. Strong urge to cry makes me hide in my bed. I start crying. Within less than a minute I conclude that they are not worthy of my tears, they do not deserve my tears and I will not cry over this! At first I tremble under my bed cover trying to smother the urge to cry. This is what it takes to diminish my negative emotions until they vanish completely. Rationalization – it is hard for them and just because they did not react the way I needed them to react, it does not mean they are not doing their best to raise us properly. I should not be so harsh on them. My emotions are now completely blocked. I calm myself down (or fall asleep in the process) and join my family.

Future emotional cripple with strong logic skills coming right up!

Left in a lurch

My parents have four children. At the time we lived in 55 sq. meter flat, they had three. I was the eldest. My sister was 3 years younger and my brother 7 years younger than me. We all shared the same bedroom. Problem with three kids in the same room is that, instead of falling asleep, two of them fall into endless conversation during the night. More oft than not my sister and brother were those two. I was doing my best to fall asleep.

Their favorite topic was “Whom I will invite to my birthday party?” To me, those conversations were mostly futile since

  1. their birthdays were more than half year away
  2. their guest list depended on their mood that day
  3. they had limited circle of friends so during one evening some of those friends were several times put on and deleted from a list.

I often called any of my parents to make them shut up. They would shout and threaten from their bedroom (that was also our living room) and that was basically it. It is not that my parents did not treat us lovingly, they were just tired of the whole day’s work and needed some time for themselves.

Left in a lurch, I developed a strategy that made those talking sessions more bearable: In their age, ‘jokes’ they were telling were actually endless stories. I would ask my sister to tell me a joke. She would start but I never got to hear the end. I would fall asleep and so did she in the process.

How come conversation bothered me and joke did not? Joke bothered me as well, it just bothered me less. Jokes were told by the same person using the same (monotone) voice with mundane plot. It was easier for my brain to regard a joke as background noise than their conversation.

Out of spite out of mind

My first encounter (that I remember) with absurdity of other people was when I was 7 years old. Our homework was to learn a poem by heart. That was fairly easy for me. In the classroom our teacher said: “Those who want to recite a poem, raise your hand.” Some children raised their hands. I did not. When she asked me to recite a poem, I remained quiet. I was an excellent pupil until then so she tried to talk me into reciting it. I refused and got the lowest mark possible.

Soon my mum went to a parental meeting. At some point she was one-on-one with my teacher. She described her the incident. My mum was shocked because she knew I perfectly recited the poem at home. Teacher concluded I did it out of spite. When my mum got home and confronted me with what happened at school, I told her: “Teacher asked us to raise our hands if we want to recite a poem. I did not raise my hand. Therefore she had no right to expect I will recite it if she asks me to do it.”

Later, on my own insistence, I attended classes that focused poem reciting and was preforming in almost every school show for 8 years.

The problem was not in not knowing the poem nor in being shy. It was in a craft of logic thinking and building my own moral standards.