Often when I get upset, I feel the need to apologise, even when I had a legitimate reason. I am hard on myself after moments when I think that I’ve been too sensitive. I prefer to come across as rational rather than emotional. Ladies, can you relate?
But guess what? I’ve just read a pretty great article from the New York Times called “Medicating Women’s Feelings”, and now (drum roll, please), I think that feelings are a good thing.
Let’s clear up a few things up though. First: I never actually thought feelings were bad – just perhaps that logic was superior. I still think that logic should have the last word, but the fact that we have both faculties means they both play an important role, neither of which should completely dominate. Second: this is not a feminist rant, about how men have made us feel bad about our emotions and therefore “down with men”! It’s also not meant to stereotype every woman as a highly-strung, emotional creature. And third: it’s not an excuse for over-the-top moodiness or giving into our every whim. It’s just the realisation that when our feelings are in check and don’t have complete control over us, they are actually very healthy, normal and conducive to a happy life. They’re part of our biological makeup as females, and as with every biological detail, they have a purpose.
As the article (written by New York psychiatrist, Julie Holland) states, we are moody, so to speak: “we are hardwired to be sensitive to our environments, empathetic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partner’s intentions.” We have a greater capacity for sensing the emotions of others, and truly experiencing our own emotions (ice-cream tub and all) rather than blocking or hiding them away. I think this is a good thing!
In fact, these are signs of health – not sickness. And yet we are often trying to find a cure for our so-called craziness, assuming that there’s something wrong with us. Holland points out that 1 in 4 American women now take a psychiatric medication, and are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Sure, there are many who need pharmaceutical help, but have we ever stopped to think that perhaps, a lot of them are buying into a certain mentality: that their emotions are in need of suppression? If they’re not actually sick, this means that their body is being pumped with a whole lot of unnecessary chemicals, and their brain is saying “it’s all good” in moments when they might need to just deal with the issue at hand – a current fix that will probably only lead to bigger unresolved issues in the future.
The other problem with too much or inappropriate medication is the fact that it allows emotions to become synthetic, or more unwavering. But do we really want to be on a “happy pill” all the time? Yes, some emotions are negative, but we need them. How else can we healthily deal with the loss of a loved one or communicate better in our relationships? How else do we have the motivation to grow as a person? I would say that we need more emotions in the world, rather than less – less would only make us cold to everything going on around us.
However, like with all such issues, there is a fine line to walk here. How do we know when we are expressing our legitimate emotions, as opposed to when we’re giving into every bout of crankiness or irrational doomsaying? Honestly? I think we women will just know – we have that extra intuition, after all.