North Texas Daily

Emotions should not be inappropriate to express in public

Emotions should not be inappropriate to express in public

Emotions should not be inappropriate to express in public
June 03
12:00 2022

Who was the last person you cried in front of? We often reserve our more passionate feelings for private moments, our loved ones and our confidants. This isn’t without reason — strong emotion calls for vulnerability. For many those unguarded moments are interpreted as a sign of weakness, when in reality it displays an even greater strength.

There are many intersecting factors that discourage us from our stronger feelings. Toxic masculinity, the pretense of professionalism and public anxiety all choke down the lumps in our throats and hold back our tears. All of these reasons coalesce under the umbrella of “appropriateness.” It permeates our reactions to life and trips us up, strangling what we’re supposed to feel in order to make room for the ever-looming idea of what is and isn’t appropriate.

Even our best moments can be dashed by the glass ceiling of mundanity that social expectations set. Most people wouldn’t jump for joy or cheer in a public space, regardless of how unaware passersbys may be. Passion, good or bad, finds attention that we desperately want to avoid because of what follows: anxiety, embarrassment and shame. Most people loathe the public eye, and unfortunately simple elation can draw the attention of others.

This stigma around having strong feelings creates uneven power dynamics that are abused in nearly every kind of relationship. Many abusers label their victims responses as “overreacting” to gaslight their way to more control. The reason it works so well is due to the overarching social dynamics of extreme emotions.

The name calling — drama queen, oversensitive and sissy — all stem from the idea that a display of sentiment is a fault, when in actuality it is a form of honesty and connection to true feeling.

This rigid view of the human experience follows us into the workplace as well. No matter how rude a customer can be, workers are expected to be stalwart in their position. Insults galore must be overcome in the name of good service, even if that basic respect is not returned. This invisible barrier between the professionals and the consumer only encourages disrespect and dehumanizes workers. The lack of emotion disconnects many people’s ability to register their fellow man’s humanity.

What exacerbates this issue further is the plastic kindness that American culture sustains as formality. “How are you?” is a greeting used by everyone, but the question is rhetorical and any honesty is often met with reproach. Nobody really wants to know how you’re feeling, they just want the connection that vulnerability can deliver, and that formulaic expression is the perfect verbal road to it.

All of this is not to say that we should lay our hearts bare in every moment. Nobody would feel confident if their lawyer cried while giving their opening remarks, and road rage is already bad enough without people giving one another full pieces of their minds.

When someone begins to cross lines and hurt others through their expression by violently or horrendously disrupting something, it may be time to dial it back. Appropriateness isn’t a concept that should be thrown out, but it could be re-evaluated to make way for a more in-touch life.

So if we break down the emotional walls that polite society expects of us, what will we find? A more expressive world is one that is less conflicted. Crying in public isn’t going to cause world peace, but it will allow us to better gauge the state of our friends, our colleagues and our leaders. More evidently, we’ll begin to see the honesty of people’s compassion — or lack thereof. Either case is equally telling of a person’s character.

Life could be so much more colorful if we could come out from the shadow of emotional expectations. Gasp when you see something beautiful, cry when you feel sorrow and dance when you hear good music. There’s only one you, and we’ve only one life — be yourself in every way you can.

Featured Illustration By Erika Sevilla

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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