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To Keep a Stiff Upper Lip - or To Throw it Away? Tuesday February 24, 2015

"F**k, F**k, F**k!
Life is S**t!
Everything's getting worse. Nothing's getting better.
Nobody's getting richer;
Least of all me!"

Well, charming! I thought as the young man who had shouted these words at the top of his voice, to nothing and nobody as far as I could see, strode off into the distance.

I had kept my distance from him, of course, and now continued my journey through the school gates to collect daughter number two.

Then I started thinking, rather than just reacting with distaste.

Possibly the young man has Tourette syndrome, or challenging behaviour issues. When I examine the rhythm of the words above I could almost think they are part of a poem intended to be read out loud in some Avant-Garde night club full of other Angry Young Men.

Whatever the background of this outburst, I hope he felt better for the catharsis.

A therapist friend compares her own rather dysfunctional family, who seem to have short life-spans, with that of her husband. In his family they shout; they stamp their feet; they kick things (not people or animals, I promise). In her family they repress emotion; they are terribly British and stiff upper lipped about everything.

She is convinced that the prevalence of depression, cancer and strokes in her family is directly attributable to this bottling up of emotion. Her husband's family seem to live healthily into their nineties and beyond.

We do need to express emotion. We need to howl with rage, to stomp around with frustration, to cry when we're upset. Even if we are British and male. We also need to laugh, to hug and to kiss. It works both ways.

But can you imagine expressing your frustration like this in the office? Many of we women with overactive tear-ducts know only too well the humiliation of welling up in tears in public and the derision with which we are viewed (by some male colleagues) when that happens. In our culture, it is not appropriate to express strong emotion in front of others. In many families even, a child shouting at a parent in frustration will be told to control their temper.

So it's a fine line to walk.

My therapist friend recommends EFT (tapping) to safely and discreetly release the emotion. Because I have (to the embarrassment of my family) very few inhibitions, I have been known to say "Please excuse me for a moment while I go outside and scream". Usually that gets a laugh, but my husband has learned to hide away when I am fighting with technology: it's really not pretty and if computers could bleed, then the forensic team would have a field day later on!

I don't have any easy answers, but I still think that shouting profanity outside a primary school is inappropriate.

I mean, you'd never do that, would you?

A Moodscope member.

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Hopeful One Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 7:27am

Hi Mary - thanks for highlighting our need to safely release tension and frustration with out collateral damage.I think shouting profanities anywhere is not a good thing but I suppose if that the only venue available at least it does not involve violence which I think it is the worst way of going about it. I don't really know how the stiff upper lip became part of our culture but I think its the 'done thing' in the upper strata of our society. Crying is normal and for women a reflex as I think they are the more caring loving half of the human species.When it happens in my presence I just accept it as normal and allow the emotion to pass.My problem as a male is how to commiserate without appearing patronizing. It is interesting that ETF works for you and for many others but for me it does nothing.Maybe my chakras or meridians or whatever are in the wrong place! So what do I do when faced with frustration and tension?. I visualize the face of the Buddha(it becomes easier if one does it as part of a meditation) which gives me just enough mind space for the initial wave to pass thorough allowing me to respond rather than react.Most of our problems start because we react rather than respond.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 7:44am

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Hopeful One. You are so right in your distinction between reacting and responding. I know that, when I find myself in tears, the most helpful thing that anyone does is just hand me the tissues, gently say, "don't worry about it - if you need to cry then do" and wait quietly until the tears are done. And then to carry on without making a big deal of it. Many men panic or want to fix the perceived problem or become angry as they think tears are being used as a weapon against them. I am glad you are not among that number.

Rupert Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 8:21am

Mary good blog. I do think it is healthier to be up fron with people and say it as it is rather than hide it away and let it fester. Only last week at work during a particularly fraught and stressful deal I had a row with my boss wihich included several expletives I am ashamed to say but in a way it put a marker down and cleared the air and we got on better as a result and got the job done. I guess this doesnt always happen but it is certainly an option. Rupert

Anonymous Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 8:28am

Loved this. Made me smile and was thought provoking. My family, including me are expressive. I call it expressive rather than anger! My granddad lived until he was 95 and my lovely Irish Dad is still going strong at 84! I think there is a time and a place. I am prone to reacting while my husband is contained. We need to learn from one another and I am a great believer of 'everything and anything in moderation'!

The Entertrainer Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 10:43am

I love the very word "emotion". Whether by design or by accident, by etymology or intent, it has "motion" as its dominant portion. To me, that would suggest that emotions need to move (we talk of them "moving" us or being "moved" by something, don't we?) So then, I think they must flow. If not, the sense of dis-ease builds. The challenge, as we've all shared today, is how to do this appropriately.
Great writing, Mary. You are gifted. x

Les Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 4:25pm

To echo 'The Entertrainer'.....

The word emotion comes from the Latin 'Emotere' meaning 'to move'.

The prefix E...means out so the 'motion' comes from within us to be expressed externally 'outwith'.

So all human movement / change comes from emotion (positive or negative).

If we care about people, they need to express their emotion in a way that suits them, its their feelings, as long as ideally, it does not 'damage' anyone else.

This is for me, why the IQ world attempts to neuter emotion (EQ) as it is subjective / feelings and the 'professional' world deals with objective / facts.

For me it is always 'both and' not the 'either or' of the Newtonian world of black and white. There is mostly only grey....... for me tho' heart (EQ) before head (IQ).....our hearts need to be aligned, long before we can ever get our heads to do so....which is why politics fails to 'move' most 'moves' them away.

Returning to Mary's excellent blog......there is no doubt that if we do not express our feelings i.e. be authentic (if we are not simply being selfish - I before we) then we are not being true to ourselves and thus 'dis-ease' comes to the fore with its many outcomes.

That exploration of why the young man would do the richness of being human.....Pro-active....I am in control of me and will not Re-act. We are the only animal on the planet where there is / can be, a gap between 'stimulus and response'...........we can create a different outcome / future!

Anonymous Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 7:58pm

Hello Hopeful One

Not sure if you will read this as it is late in the day ...

Please write a blog on chakras - I am fascinated!
You are so eloquent - respond, don't react ...
I am going to pin this up (in block capitals!)

Thank-you so much


Anonymous Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 8:00pm

Hi Lex

This is just brilliant - SO helpful - thank-you!


Anonymous Tue, Feb 24th 2015 @ 8:07pm

Hello Mary

Fascinated by EFT - more please!
Thank-you for this ... makes me feel better for the many occasions I (and no. 2 daughter) let rip and/or burst into tears.


Hopeful One Wed, Feb 25th 2015 @ 7:46am

Hi Frankie- your reply was indeed a little late for me but I hope you go back to the previous days post and read this. I appreciate your suggestion but I feel the subject is to narrow and may not have the wider appeal that the main blog I imagine is expected to do.So briefly the 'chakras' come form the Kundalini yoga tradition where it is believed that we have 7 of these situated in our body beginning from our bottom and working through he body ending in the head chakra or the 'third eye' . An energy( source not identified- could be within us or coming to us through the cosmos) which can be activated to benefit mental or physical well being Be warned .The psycho-spiritual kundalini force can be explosive.In the uncontrolled form it can give you a blinding headaches to driving you insane! So you will need to go to a Kundalini practitioner to release it in a gentle controlled way if you believe any of this.

Hopeful One Wed, Feb 25th 2015 @ 7:53am

Hi Mary- for me its just an uncomfortable feeling rather than feeling it is a weapon of female guile.And I would never angry.That as the Buddha observed is like holding a hot coal in one's hand to throw at someone.It is obvious who is going to get burnt!

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