20 May 2018
Develop the Fun Muscle:
When I was 13 I decided that I would never be angry again. At 13 I believed that was possible.
Why would a 13-year old even consider a decision like that? Well, I grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family. I was in my first year of High School and some other kid had been taunting and bullying me for months. Her little coven of friends found it all hilarious. That day she overstepped the line. I lost it. Blind with fury I punched her in the face. Hard. So hard I cut my knuckles on her teeth. Afterwards I felt so ashamed I wished that I could just die. I was 13.
A lot of stuff happened after that. Eventually the school day ended and I could go home. Later my parents came home from work. They asked me what had happened. I told them. Their reaction made no sense to me. They laughed. Then my mother, still laughing, said, “You’re just like us after all”. It was quite possibly the worst thing she could have said.
My brain was screaming, “No! I’m not! I’m not like you at all!”. But some part of me knew that I too could be violent and out of control. It terrified me. I would not, could not, let that happen ever again. And that was when I decided I would never ever get angry again.
At 13 I didn’t realise (or know) that we cannot switch off one emotion – the unwelcome one- and leave the others intact.
We cannot survive without fear, and anger, and sadness. And our lives are diminished without happiness and joy (and laughter). It takes a lot of energy to block off Anger. One has to be constantly vigilant. It takes so much energy, effort and time, there is none left for any other emotion. Actually, I’m not even sure if it is possible. I think I succeeded only in turning it against myself. Many years later it would manifest as Depression…
I’ve learnt that emotions are like muscles. They atrophy when they are not used.
Now I’m using the Joy muscle more. I laugh more: at stupid stuff, at ridiculous stuff, at things that are absurd. I watch amusing stuff on YouTube. I watch how other people practice taking themselves less seriously and how much fun they have doing it. It is freeing and uplifting. Sunny days are sunnier and bleak days are less grey. And I enjoy who I am a whole lot more too.
First I had to find the Sad muscle though. In my family Sad wasn’t allowed. Sad got you ridiculed as ‘weak’, or it got you punished for being ‘weak’. My parents believed in “giving” us something to cry about. It was always something painful and/or shaming.
Long ago someone, Erik Berne, said we have basically three emotions: Mad, Sad and Glad. Rediscovering and owning Sad meant that I could manage and process Mad. That really made me Glad. Yeay.
So that is what I’m doing more of – I love Glad. Today I found myself laughing out loud at a TEDx presenter – a young lass who designs useless things. Fortunately laughter is infectious. If you need more Glad then hang out more with Glad people who laugh a lot. It’s fun. Exercise your Fun Muscle.
This is my Fun Hat…..lol. I’m a Minion.