Room to Feel

Today I read an article about Andrew Scott as Hamlet in the performance the BBC aired last night, and one of the comments in it was as follows:

Andrew Scott often spoke about how young people, guys in particular, are forced to move on too quickly. Are being told showing emotions, mourning, is not manly enough.

I’ve not been following Scott long enough to tell you if this claim is true or not, but the premise struck me. It’s not a new revelation. Surely everyone is familiar with the strange stigma around men crying or being ‘overly emotional’ by now. It’s something that’s always baffled me, for multiple reasons – everyone has emotions, so why aren’t they allowed to show them? Surely the idea men can’t show emotion does a disservice to both men and women, by playing into the whole ‘women are overly-emotional’ stereotype and creating a larger contrast?

But what did strike me was the first sentence. That young people are made to move on too quickly. And I feel like that’s true – and not just for situations as obviously damaging as Hamlet’s father dying. If we suffer setbacks, we’re told to get over it. If we’re having a bad day, we’re being melodramatic. If teens feel like they’re under too much pressure, they’re told to suck it up, or that ‘that’s life’. If we get dealt a bad lot and are feeling it, we’re too sensitive. And a lot of the time, there’s some adage about the idiosyncrasies of youth and its naivety.

The general idea is we shouldn’t mind any of it. We should simply move on, forget about it, stop caring so much.

But I’m not sure I agree with that. Merely ignoring what you’re feeling, bottling it up, and – more than that – feeling ashamed or guilty for having those emotions, is what’s damaging. It’s what leads us to sitting alone in corners, expressing our thoughts to nobody but ourselves. It’s the reason people cry themselves to sleep in darkened bedrooms on their own. It’s surely part of the reason so many of us find so much isolation in our youth, even if we are surrounded by people and friends.

It can be hard to find the room to feel. Some people are lucky, and have a person they can confide all their innermost thoughts to, someone to listen even when they may be being irrational or may not have things quite in perspective. But many don’t have that person. Many find themselves caught in between their commitments and what’s expected of them and have no place of release. A lot of us turn to writing in journals and diaries in an effort to create a space for us to simply feel what we’re feeling, without the judgement and without being hurried to move on.

It seems clear to me that what’s important is finding the balance, where we’re allowed recognise our feelings and deal with them, but also not let them overtake us. Simply because there may be worse things out there in the world doesn’t discount your own experiences. Everyone deserves the room to feel.

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