“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” - Carl Jung
Have you ever heard someone say, “I am not an emotional person?” Those words often describe one’s manner of response to something deeply meaningful. Rather than showing it publicly, it is kept inside. But that doesn’t mean people like that are without emotions.
I grew up in a Pennsylvania Dutch family where we rarely revealed our emotions. I thought I was not an emotional person. I didn’t cheer out loud for my team and in public I sang quietly. I usually kept my opinions to myself and never challenged someone else’s. It was more comfortable to shake hands than to hug.
When I started dating Evie, I had a hard time with sharing my feelings. I knew how to beat around the bush. I told her I appreciated her. She told me later she got really tired of being appreciated. We still smile about that. I had the hardest time telling her I loved her. Thankfully, my life and my ability to express my emotions have dramatically changed since then.
Since each of us is unique, how we respond to our emotions is unique. Judith Wright said, “Feelings and emotions are the universal language and are to be honored. They are the authentic expression of who you are at your deepest place.” On the other hand, Joyce Meyer said, “Your emotions are very unstable and should never be the foundation for direction in your life.”
One person who receives a gift of a million dollars might quietly sit down, overcome by the reality of the moment and tell no one at first. Another person might jump up and down, shouting at the top of their lungs with great exuberance. Each of them could be just as deeply moved emotionally but their response could be the difference between night and day.
A public display of emotion can sometimes cause huge problems. In the 1992 film “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks plays the role of Jimmy Dugan, the manager of the Rockford Peaches, a fictionalized account of the real life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League team. Dugan was a former marquee Cubs slugger who initially felt that the whole thing of being manager of this team was a joke.
As the Peaches began to gain some notoriety and become contenders, a famous scene unfolded when Evelyn, the right fielder, threw the ball to home plate trying to get the player out. Dugan could not believe it. They had a two run lead, yet with that play the tying run got to second and the Peaches eventually lost the lead.
After yelling at Evelyn, he turned to walk into the dugout and he heard Evelyn crying. He spun around and said, “Are you crying? Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball.” Dugan’s proclamation was ranked 54th on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest film quotes of all time.
Amalia Harvey suggests five habits to balance our emotions:
1. Instead of reacting, we should respond. Viktor Frankl said that a space exists between stimulus and response and in that space we can choose our response.
2. We should honor the reality of our emotions. We all have emotions because we are human. Never deny them.
3. We should look inward and have true compassion for our authentic selves. To deny our emotions is to deny something central to who we are.
4. We should insist on movement. Physical movement or even a change in location can enhance our emotional equilibrium.
5. We should not treat gratitude as a bonus; we should make it a requirement. Emotional perspective comes when we approach life with gratitude.
Whether or not you agree with Dugan’s classic retort, “There’s no crying in baseball,” understanding and correctly expressing our emotions matters.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Responses can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer. Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer. Archives at: valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit.