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Emotions and Societal Expectations

Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast called Science and Spirituality. In episode 41, Toxic Positivity, they mention a definition of emotion, which is energy in motion, and stated that feelings are energy and that this energy must move through you. If your feelings, emotions, do not move through you, they get stuck. If emotions get stuck, they do not get expressed and healed and can build up. If these emotions build up so long and get compounded over years, they may explode.

According to, emotion is an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.

In my life’s work as a social worker, writer, yoga instructor, mom and human, I have witnessed the value of moving through emotion, truly feeling whatever it is you are experiencing, learning from the feelings and coming out stronger on the other side. My thought is that you do not get over emotions, you must get through them, especially the more difficult ones, like grief, hurt, anger or fear.

Within this realm of thought, I began to contemplate how societal labels, expectations and values have directly impacted our ability to work through our emotions, based on race, gender and societal biases. I feel, most of these man made concepts, divide, pigeonhole and attempt to define our roles and are typically negative in connotation. However, these societal norms, have an immense impact on each of us in how we experience life from birth.

Going back to emotion, and how, if we do not work through and heal such, the feelings can get stuck within us, layered with societal norms around who, how and what emotions are expected and acceptable, based on gender and race, etc, we force stagnation of emotion as a society. With so many of us walking around with emotional time bombs within us, it is no wonder violence, upheavals, anger and hatred are most prevalent in our world.

Let us consider the average white male in our society. His labels are currently privileged. He is the

“supreme being” of society, in all his toxic masculinity and power. (Maybe he is toxic because he has not released his emotions fully, ever?) He should not complain about anything because he has is all. Right? So consider this…. He is not “allowed” to show emotion, be vulnerable, express his pain because society does not acknowledge or accept the fact that he is an emotional being, who has struggles, heartaches or traumas. Often, he is told to suck it up and be a man. As he goes through life being strong and never being allowed to cry, rant or express his emotions freely, he is packed full of negative emotions, that must come out at some point. Then we ask, why are white boys the ones that bring guns to school and wreak havoc and take lives out of pure hatred and anger. Why are most (not all, by any means) mass shooters white men?

Let us explore the labels placed on black men. Black boys are labeled in school as disruptive, hard to handle and less intelligent. They are assumed to be fearful and angry about their place in society. They are taught and molded that they are oppressed and have little hope of breaking out of the cycles of poverty, oppression and being targeted by police. Sadly, at least, they are expected and maybe even pushed to express their anger and fears. However, once again, they are told not to show vulnerability and emotion. If they were to remove their defenses and armor, they will be exposed and targeted even more. So even though they are “allowed” to express their anger and fear, they are not expected to show tenderness, hurt, grief and weakness in anyway. Then we ask, why are energies between authority figures and the black men in our world strained, fearful, armored up and defensive to a point where violence and gun fights are prevalent for black men?

These are just a few and extreme examples of much bigger issues in our world. We were blessed with emotions to allow us to feel, to learn from and heal from, in order to grow and expand beyond the shallow, materialistic society that we currently inhabit. Moving through the feelings, whatever they may be, will cleanse your soul, your heart and your mind from the traumas that we, as humans, are bound to face. As humans, even though our likenesses far out weigh our differences, we have become a society that thrives on those differences, checking boxes to identify ourselves, building fences instead of bridges, creating a world of tiny, lonely, boxes full of unspent emotions and unexplored gifts. Man has spent an enormous amount of time specifying what “should” be and burying all the possibilities that could be, that already exist inside of each us. It is time to change that. Let us come together and cry. Let us hold each other in love, empathy and kindness. Hold each other until there are no more tears to cry. Let us open our hearts to healing and solidarity around letting emotions flow freely. Let us stop defining, boxing each other in and creating division. Look at your fellow man, meet his eyes, see his struggles, his pain, his energy that needs to be in motion. Allow him to let it go, as you sit beside him and you let go, too. As humans, our emotions are gifts, are information, are knowledge to guide us to heal, be better than what happened to us and share that with the world.

So go, feel what is stuck in your heart, body, soul. Write it. Cry to out. Run it out. Talk it out. Whatever it takes. However long it takes. You deserve to feel. You deserve to let go. You deserve to heal. But mostly, you deserve to be an impassioned being and use your gifts of emotions to grow and be fully human, in all your imperfect perfections.

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