This zine is dedicated to my father -- for your courage, sensitivity, integrity, honesty and compassion. In a time and place where some folks have never even see their fathers cry, I consider myself extremely lucky. You have taught me so much about my emotions, about being a man, and about being human. I am eternally grateful for your insight and for your love. Thank you.
I believe that the values and beliefs Western culture has taught me about emotions are greatly dysfunctional. Emotions simply don't fit nicely into the Western view of reality. In this view, nothing is considered legitimate unless it has a verifiable (objective) physical cause and effect. And if it does, that physical manifestation is considered the only extent to which it exists.
An appropriate (if very simplified) example: These days, depression is considered (at least by drug companies) to be a chemical imbalance in the brain. No, it is not believed that depression causes this imbalance, nor even that it is associated with this imbalance; supposedly, depression is this imbalance. It is only considered valid because of this supposed physical cause and effect, and that's all it's considered to be. Additionally, we are led to believe that once we know the physical cause and effect, we can simply intervene with a magic pill and "fix what's broken."
We are given very strong messages about emotions -- what's okay, what's appropriate, what's normal, and of course, what's only felt by bad, evil people. Depending on our socialization, these "bad emotions" can include a broad range of feelings: hate, rage, jealousy, spite, fear, resentment, helplessness, loneliness, depression, misogyny/misandry, vulnerability, loathing, self-loathing, lust, and even things like contentedness, desire, and pleasure. Of course this creates damaging problems for us when we inevitably have these emotions. For instance, if we feel hate and depression, we might also feel guilty for having those feelings--which could lead to more "bad emotions" like self-loathing! Most likely, in addition to developing such unhealthy emotional reactions to the emotions themselves, we generally go into some level of denial about the whole thing. Either we just try to hide our "bad emotions" from other people while secretly feeling guilty about them, or we also deny to ourselves that the feelings are real.
My proposition is this: that there are no bad emotions, and that the only unhealthy emotions are the ones that we have, but don't allow ourselves to feel and express. And further, that our emotions can manifest themselves in violent, abusive, and dysfunctional ways when we don't give ourselves a way to feel and express them in a safe and intentional setting. This is in no way intended to imply that having these emotions, or even repressing them causes one to be violent or abusive. (I'll talk more about this later.) For me though, learning how to better integrate my emotions into my identity has given me tools with which to cultivate less dysfunctional and more intimate interpersonal relationships.
This zine is an attempt for me to share some of what I've learned about emotions, and the tools that are working for me to develop a healthy relationship with my emotions. It is my intention throughout this zine to speak of and from my own experience. I understand that what speaks to me, what works for me, and what doesn't, may not hold for the reader. My hope is that others will find it useful.
I would love to hear your feedback. What did you find valuable? What did you find irrelevant? What works/doesn't work for you? Do you think I'm full of shit? Do you like what I have to say? Do you have resources to suggest for my learning process? I will likely revise/update this zine as I continue to learn about emotions and myself.
Thanks for reading!
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