Sometimes it’s OK to wear our emotional hearts on our sleeves

CHILDREN don’t have filters. You can clearly see when they are sad or happy. They have unfiltered reactions to the happenings around them. If someone upsets them, they don’t worry about upsetting them back by telling them they have hurt their feelings.

They don’t worry about seeming silly if they let out an ear-piercing laugh in front of others, they just do it.

There do not get embarrassed by how they feel and young children don’t feel the need to hide their emotions. In short, they wear their hearts on their sleeves.

It is only when we get older that we learn to hide our emotions. We learn that certain expressions of our emotions aren’t acceptable in ‘public.’

Literally, no one would know how to deal with a 43-year-old flipping out in Aldi if their favourite product was out of stock but no one looks twice when a four-year-old is rolling in the aisle kicking up a stink.

As children grow up, they become better at understanding the social code — what behaviours and emotions are OK to express in public and which to keep private. They also learn which emotions to be ashamed of if they escape.

Most of us get very good at masking our emotions and holding them in control when we are out — so much so that many of us forget to unbury them when we get home or to a safe space. On top of this, many people get so good at controlling their emotions that they no longer know how to recognise and manage their emotions in healthy ways.

I feel this side of our nature has shifted in the past two years. We have collectively been so exhausted by the fear, sacrifice, and uncertainty that has come with living during a pandemic that in the past few weeks we have given ourselves and others permission to “let it all out”.

Our emotions have been bubbling under the surface but, with the easing of most restrictions, a lot of people have let their pent-up feelings just spill out.

Friends have cried when hugging each other for the first time in months and there are tears when people finally get to meet up in their favourite pubs. Families are “in bits” welcoming home members who haven’t been able to travel for two years.

No one is expected to hold it together when they meet new family members who were born during lockdown and they can cry uncontrollably at being together to properly grieve loved ones who have died.

It has all been too much and anything could set any of us off. We are all back to wearing our hearts on our sleeves and that is okay.

We are forgiving and patient with children when their emotions are high or they need to stop whatever they have been doing to have a cry or scream. We allow them space to do this and support them to find a way to come out the other side or to calm down.

I am not saying that once you pass a certain age it is now perfectly acceptable to scream “I hate you” in the middle of the office floor but if we can take something from the past two years it is that sometimes it’s OK if our emotions are to the surface rather than buried deep inside; that maybe there is a logic and a healthy release to placing fewer restrictions on ourselves and others. It should never be seen as embarrassing or weak to cry and no one should stifle that loud laugh.

What can come from wearing our hearts on our sleeves like children is greater kindness and compassion for ourselves and for others.

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