Calm down, shut up, and cheer up: how are you really feeling?

Via Nadine McNeil
on Jul 9, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

If I were given a dollar for each time as a child growing up (and even as an evolving adult today) that I was told to calm down, I’d be a millionaire.

Being told to calm down while in the frustrating midst of trying to explain one’s feeling and self is one of the most invalidating things that a human being can ever experience.  For me, these two words have the diametric opposite effect of their intentions.

Then there’s shut up. This command given by one person to another is so crass that it borders on being inhumane. Slap me upside the head and let’s have a down and low drag out fight but please I beg you, refrain from telling me those two words also.

Here’s the real clincher:  cheer up! Usually proceeded by, things could be worse, be thankful for what you have, tomorrow is another day or same shit different day, this happiness on demand directive is oftentimes ineffective. Cheer up is the final two nails one drives into our coffin of emotions.

Our exposure to these three two-word commands often begins at tender and impressionable ages in our lives. Without realizing it, we start to silence ourselves.

Why can’t we just spiral out of control, scream hysterically at the tops of our lungs and then exhausted and exasperated, collapse into an emotional heap? At least then we would have worked through our feelings and are more likely to emerge from them feeling centered, calm and happy!

The epitome of happiness

To me, this is the magical beauty that exists in a baby:  in the absence of mind-made words, there’s no mistaking how they feel. If they’re happy their gurgles and smiles let us know and when they’re sad, through their tears and gut wrenching screams they communicate loud and clear!

It is no wonder that addiction and drug use is so prevalent in our societies – they are the perfect anecdotes for calming down, shutting up and cheering up!

Emotions, especially those we consider dark, are tough waters to wade through. No one would consciously call upon themselves desperation, despair and depression.  Yet at some stage of our development, perhaps more than once, we’ll find ourselves in this uncomfortable space. For many of us whenever we’re faced with the same lesson dressed up in different masquerade outfits we plead, “why me?” At a higher plane however, there is a responding voice that replies, “why not you?”

Various life experiences have taught me that we’ll repeatedly be thrown the same lesson until we get it. And even when we feel we’ve gotten it, life will through us a curve ball just to quadruple check.

Being open, aware and conscious are the elements that unlock our hearts and allow us to gracefully wade through our emotions. In a world that is strung up on the perpetual pursuit of happiness, our natural instinct to minimize pain and suffering when possible is quickly becoming a need to avoid suffering by any means necessary. Until we come to the realization and acceptance that suffering and happiness exist in tandem, people will continue to feed either one at the cost of starving the other, creating imbalance.

Feel your feelings, in the knowing that like all else, they are fleeting and therefore liberate your psyche from being identified and imprisoned by them.

In the words of [Bob] Marley, who feels it knows it [Lord].


About Nadine McNeil

Yogini. Humanitarian. Spirited. Compassionate. Storyteller. All of these words conjure up aspects that make Nadine McNeil the person she aspires to be: an evolutionary catalyst committed to global transformation. Now fully devoted to expanding the reach of yoga through what she refers to as the “democratization of yoga,” she designs and delivers workshops to a wide cross-section of communities who ordinarily may not be exposed to nor reap its benefits.To join her mailing list and to learn more about her work and receive special offers, please click here.


11 Responses to “Calm down, shut up, and cheer up: how are you really feeling?”

  1. Wendy says:

    A great reminder this morning, especially this morning and this week and forever and forever … Don't fight those feelings! Feel them!! Thank you for a great post!

  2. Joe Sparks says:

    Re-evaluation Counseling (also known as RC or Co-Counseling) views all human beings as inherently intelligent, cooperative, and good. We assume it is natural for a human to have good relations with all other humans, to think well, to act wisely and successfully, and to enjoy life. In this view, every human being acts and cooperates well except where patterns of emotional distress interfere. Then irrational behavior, negative feelings, and failure to cooperate or communicate replace the inherent human behavior. These "distress patterns" are the residue of physical or emotional hurts, many of them dating back to childhood, from which we have never fully recovered. We re-enact them when something in the current environment reminds us of the earlier times of distress. The residual effects of past distress experiences could have been thrown off quickly and permanently, at the time we were hurt, through the natural channels of emotional discharge (for example, crying, laughing, and trembling).

  3. Joe Sparks says:

    After emotional discharge, a person's mind is able to think more clearly and re-evaluate what happened in the distressing incident. Instead, some of the social conditioning against emotional discharge carried by our cultures and rigidly inflicted upon us when we were children ("Don't cry," "Be a big boy," and so on) has interfered with, and prevented, recovery from our hurts, leading to an increasing accumulation of distresses and tensions. By the time we are adults, this has severely limited our original abilities to achieve good relationships with others, to succeed, and to enjoy life. It also interferes with our collective progress towards a society that supports all humans to thrive in cooperative, respectful relationships.
    In Re-evaluation Counseling we regain the natural ability to heal from hurt. The prime requirement for this is a listener and counselor who is sincerely interested, who will remain relaxed in the face of our tensions, and who understands how the process of emotional discharge operates.

  4. Joe Sparks says:

    Many of our accumulated distresses result from societally-imposed hurts that we call oppression (racism is one example). Every adult in every present society has been conditioned, through the imposition of distress patterns, into functioning in both oppressed and oppressor roles. (For example, the same person can both be oppressed by racism and be in the oppressor role with regard to sexism.)
    Oppression is neither inevitable nor inherent in human beings. It arises and operates only on the basis of distress patterns. No human being would agree to submit to oppression unless a distress pattern of such submission had been previously installed while the human being was hurting. No human being would ever agree to, or participate in, oppressing another human being unless a distress pattern had been previously installed. Once these patterns are in place, we are susceptible to acting irrationally and oppressively toward others, including people in our own group, and even toward ourselves. (For example, when racism has hurt people to the point where they unknowingly internalize it, they may demean and mistreat themselves and their own people.)

  5. Joe Sparks says:

    Individuals can be freed from the damage caused by racism, and other oppressions, through the processes of emotional discharge. This healing empowers individuals to engage in the organizing and struggle necessary for the elimination of racism from institutions and society.
    Members of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities have worked on eliminating racism since the 1970's. In 1999 the International Re-evaluation Counseling Communities designated eliminating racism as our key issue, accelerating work on eliminating this oppression. Within the RC Communities people attend caucuses and workshops in which we exchange counseling to free themselves from the effects of racism. Some of these caucuses and workshops are for people of various heritages. Some are for single-heritage groups (African-descendants, Indigenous peoples, and so on).

  6. tanya lee markul says:

    Thank you, Nadine!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  7. You said it and so well! Sit down, shut up and smile like a good girl. Well, luckily some of us were not good listeners!!!! Love it, thank you, Hilary

  8. China Royale says:

    Thanks Nadine…I agree one million per cent!!! Damned annoying but absolutely right the worst is "shut up!"

  9. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  10. Catherine says:

    I'd like to add "Smile!" to the list (and the body language that speaks when the words aren't actually said – no assumptions!), but yes, please just go ahead and slap me – that would heal much faster than the words. Thank you, Nadine.

  11. […] Calm down, shut up, and cheer up: how are you really feeling? […]