Published 12:33 pm Thursday, April 21, 2022
To the Editor:
For the most part, feelings make sense…which may elude us at times. The more we understand how they work, the better able we are to use the information they have to offer in a life affirming way. I am concerned. There is a movement to “protect” children from difficult feelings rather than teaching them how to live with them. We have children shooting up schools, people screaming at each other, young people killing themselves at alarming rates, and violence against others as the solution to disagreements is rampant.
For 55 years, I have endeavored to understand the way in which feelings work inside of us. First, it was a matter of survival. At the age of 15, when my father died, I was suddenly without the one person I knew liked me. There was a maelstrom of feelings inside, and I was ill equipped to handle them “in any way, shape or form.” As time went on and I was better able to experience my feelings, it turned into something else. While working in a behavioral medicine setting, it became “Difficult feelings? Call Jo.” Hence, I was able to gather information about feelings and how they work from quite a few people. I was also able to share what I had learned about feelings to that point.
Another 15 years of study ensued as I taught dual enrollment psychology in a local school district. It allowed me to teach about how feelings function, and gain feedback from students on the information. Feelings are such an enormous part of who we are, it seems a shame to lack access to all the information they can provide. The subjects from which we are trying to protect children are the perfect place to begin to teach our children to deal with difficult feelings in manageable doses. I have struggled with my own feelings of guilt and shame, only to realize, the real issue is what I do going forward. Manageable doses of difficult feelings are a way to build competency. This time in history seems tailor made for it. I would be surprised if any of us get through this life without multiple experiences of “unbidden difficult feelings” to manage.