In the film “The Adam Project” (2022), 12-year old Adam tells his older self:
“I think it is easier to be angry than it is to be sad. And I guess, when I get older, I forget that there’s a difference.”
Over the past couple of years, I have come to a few realisations when I have managed to cool off and do some introspection after an angry outburst.
I agree with Adam that it really is easier to be angry than it is to be sad.
And I think one of the reasons might be that anger doesn’t require so much vulnerability, as anger is an easy default.
Moreover, it is easier to apologise for being angry than to process the repercussions of sadness.
Anger pushes people away whilst sadness draws them closer. Being left on our own might be an easy way out, as some of us prefer to be alone when we are sad. It doesn’t take so much effort as having to deal with someone’s pity. Or even worse - their unsolicited advice on ‘how to get through this’.
However, being angry should never be a replacement for sadness. Moreover - while we practice being brave enough to be vulnerable, a few other things might happen: The better we get at experiencing hurt being transformed into sadness; the more significant the chances are that the world might just be a little less angry overall.
“And what about this one?” Teacher Lynn holds up a picture to the group of preschoolers. “Are we allowed to feel like this?” I move a little closer to get a clearer view of the photo depicting a little girl, tears streaming down her face.
Self-confident answers become more reluctant as the preschoolers wait for encouragement. A bright-eyed five-year-old eagerly nods his head up and down in response. Teacher Lynn smiles before she reassures them: “Of course we are allowed to feel sad. I also feel sad sometimes – especially over the weekends when I miss you an awful lot and Monday feels so far away”. Her eyes start to twinkle with excitement: “But what do I do with that feeling?”. She graciously moves to the other side of the room, spins around and starts to boogie. “I sing a little song and do a little dance until I feel better”.
In Marc Brackett’s book “Permission to feel”, he writes in the prologue how ‘we deny ourselves – and one another – the permission to feel’ (Brackett, 2019:3). This leads to our losing our ability to even identify what we’re feeling. Therefore, we might become unable to understand why we’re experiencing an emotion or what’s happening in our lives that’s causing it. And when we can’t recognize, understand, or put into words how we feel, Brackett says it’s impossible for us to do anything about it. He suggests that to master out feelings we should rather accept them, even embrace them and learn to make our emotions work for us, not against us.
Teacher Lynn applied Brackett’s suggestions with ease. She acknowledged the importance of being allowed to feel sad and therefore she was able to empower the preschoolers by giving them tools to react upon their sadness. Until they felt better. The healing often depends on the process.
As I am typing, the clock is ticking towards midnight. And this time, not only will midnight announce the dawn of a new day and the beginning of a new month… But as soon as the clock strikes 12, the first of September announces the arrival of spring. The season of new beginnings!
This past weekend, we attended Die Dromers Mark – a seasonal open air market n Potchefstroom. As soon as we arrived, our 7-year-old spotted a collection of colourful creatures and hurried towards the vendor. We couldn’t resist joining him to investigate and were greeted by the worry gobblers.
The tag that accompanies the worry gobbler says it all:
Hello there Brave One, tell me, how are you?
I’m your friendly WORRY GOBBLER and eating up your worries is what I love to do.
It’s okay to feel nervous, or even a little scared.
Your tummy might feel upside down, like you’re standing on your head.
When your heart is feeling sad or heavy and your chest a little tight -
I’ll be here to listen any time of the day or night.
Feed me as many worries as you like: 1, 2, or 3.
I’ll gobble them up at lightning speed they’re delicious to me, you see.
Draw a picture, write them down, or whisper in my ear
And together we will see that there is nothing at all to fear.
Love, your WORRY GOBBLER.
There is nothing left for me to say really.
Only that I think we all could do with one of those…
I googled “happiness quotes” and in 0.56 seconds Google came up with about 1 120 000 000 results. Related search terms include sad quote, kindness quote, quote about optimism, quote about gratitude and lastly hatred quote. Initially, the first and last related search terms took me by surprise. But after a moment or two, I concluded that if you’re able to experience intense happiness, you surely have the ability to experience intense sadness. Sometimes all it takes is a split second to make the switch.
I asked my seven-year-old how he would define the word happiness. After pretending to ponder this question very deeply, he simply said: “It means that you have a beautiful heart. That’s really the only thing there is to it”.
Is the secret to happiness a beautiful heart to begin with or is the beautiful heart the destination we’re heading to when we have found happiness? Most probably the secret towards happiness lies in the in the process. Because I have never heard of a fool-proof recipe for Happiness.
Maybe the greatest common factor of happiness and a beautiful heart is choice.
What is your default setting?
Chanting might be a way to express how we feel in’ to how we show out - a way to portray what feelings sound like. One specific tune that comes to mind is the toddler drone, also known as the playground chant - consisting of three pitches: so mi la so mi.
This ditty is sung all over the world by children who want to display a sense of bravado and often feel that they can conquer the world because they are part of a pack. Maybe the simple act of chanting these notes as part of a larger group increases the brave exterior of the lead chanter.
But I have also been a spectator in situations where the chant’s volume steadily decreases as soon as the chanters realise that the opposing team are way better off in regards to numbers, size, support and loudness.
Showing out what we’re feelin’ inside is an act of courage. Whether we are surrounded by a large group of peers that supports us, or whether we are voicing our vulnerability as an individual.
According to Melissa Hurt, humming is one of the most therapeutic practices one can do for daily wellness. The reason being that breath, voice, body and spirit are all connected when humming our daily dose of wellbeing.
However, there is a clear distinction between humming and singing. Or is there?
What would an angry Humm sound like?
A happy Humm?
A sad Humm?
A worried Humm?
Could humming portray what feelings sound like?
I think there is much more to humming than what meets the ear. Maybe if we want to know what our own feelings sound like, we should start experimenting with our inner voices – through humming. And if we want to know what other people’s feelings sound like, we could start with those in our immediate circle of family and friends. Becoming aware of producing different pitch levels of humming: humming in a higher range and humming in a lower range. Adjusting the volume of our humming. Loud humming. Soft humming. In-between humming.
I cannot help to wonder how letting it all out through humming might influence what we are already feeling inside. Creating an awareness of expressing how we feel in’ to how we show out through the unique sounds of humming.
Feelings are complicated. Not only complicated to define, but complicated to pinpoint. Complicated to acknowledge. Complicated to distinguish. Complicated to get across. Complicated to react upon.
Some feelings are assumed when looking at someone’s face: Smiling is associated with being happy and crying with being sad. But at the same time, one could smile to hide sadness and laugh to the point of tears. Expressions are therefore not always the true indicators of what we are feeling inside. Whenever I experience happiness, I feel light-headed. Not dizzy, but a freeing sensation. Whenever I experience intense sadness, a hollow feeling starts rising from the pit of stomach. Whenever I am stressed or angry, my breathing accelerates. In the past when I have experienced moments of shock, I have stopped breathing altogether for a few seconds.
I read a quote the other day by Aashish Bardia: “No one is more powerful than the person who knows how to carry a smile even in pain”.
I do not know whether I agree with the powerful part. In my opinion, this statement contradicts Marc Brackett’s work on the power of emotions he discusses in his book “Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive”. He describes feelings as “a form of information” (Brackett, 2019:17) we need to access to figure out what message this information is conveying.
An awareness of how our body reacts upon different feelings does not necessarily mean that we are able to accurately express these feelings through our facial expressions.
But there might just be another way that connects how we feel in’ to how we show out…