Forget, “Conceal it, Don’t Feel it!” Instead, you’ve got to “Name it to Tame it!”
by Michelle “Mitch” ShepardWe recently celebrated my daughter’s 7th birthday with a family date night at the movies, where we saw the Disney film, Frozen. I love the core messages behind the film:1) The motto of “Conceal it, don’t feel it” ended up distancing the heroine from her life, her heart, and the people closest to her.2) When we become more of ourselves, we’re both more powerful and happier.3) Love comes in many forms.4) We’re all “fixer-uppers.”The film had me asking, “Why is everyone so afraid of feelings?” Just yesterday I was in the middle of a “tense moment” with my husband and I got a bit “animated” (he calls it, “Mount St. Mitchie”) and he suggested I calm down. Guess what happened next? Yep, that’s right, I didn’t get calmer. Instead, I became more animated…Can you relate?Whether at work or at home, I’ve found that this notion of “conceal it, don’t feel it”—a.k.a. “check your emotions at the door”—can be dangerous at worst and ineffective at best. For one thing, it’s been scientifically proven that it’s not even possible! In studies of the human brain, functional MRI’s revealed that emotion is not only present in but is a critical component of every decision you make. Not only is it impossible to turn off your emotions, they play a key role in all things brain related! You need your emotions in order to operate optimally.However, most of us simply stuff them—to detrimental results. “Mount Saint Mitchie” comes out fighting only after I’ve been holding my feelings in too long. I see the same thing with my clients—someone doesn’t tell their boss they’re unhappy, and then they eventually become disengaged, quit their job, or blow up (and damage their reputation). I’ve seen it with couples, too—they don’t talk about what’s bothering them and then they end up in a tense and/or love-less partnership or they inevitably break-up.In the face of tough feelings, most of us lean towards one extreme or the other: we implode (stuff those feelings deep down inside where they manifest as inner anxiety, resentment, and passive anger that ultimately comes out sideways) or we explode (an outward show of reactivity in the form of an aggressive stance, tone of voice and/or body language, often followed by subsequent feelings of shame and regret). Are you an imploder or an exploder? (Or, maybe you’re the single human being that somehow gets the mix just right! If so, PLEASE share your secret with the rest of us! J)The science tells us that we’ve got to “name it to tame it.” Acknowledging how you’re feeling is the most successful strategy for getting back to a place of thinking calmly and logically. The goal isn’t to operate solely out of your logical brain OR your emotional brain—the goal is to use BOTH simultaneously because there’s important information contained in BOTH.In Frozen (spoiler alert!), the heroine eventually realizes the power of her own feelings and when she acknowledges them, it brings her closer to her family, her community, and herself. On our way home, my daughter asked, “Mommy, why did the daddy tell her to ‘conceal it, don’t feel it?’” I told my daughter it was because he was doing his best to protect her. I can totally relate! I can’t stand to see my kids, loved ones, friends, or clients upset. I want to protect them from the less comfortable feelings. However, that just isn’t possible. And the heroine had to learn that the hard way.Sharing your feelings is messy, complicated and often uncomfortable. But not sharing your feelings gives you no hope for change—and little hope for connection with others.Michelle “Mitch” Shepard is the Founder & Creative Force behind WiRL Leadership Summit— an online event for professional women seeking career success and personal fulfillment. An executive coach, facilitator, and leader herself, Mitch knows firsthand what it takes to succeed to today’s business world, and is eager to help women accomplish their professional and personal goals. Mitch specializes in Emotional Intelligence and is known for her energy, humor and realism.