We all have heard about Canadian biases against emotional expressions of any kind. We hear expressions such as “Chill out” or “Take a pill” that imply that we should be emotionally expressionless – cool and collected – in any circumstance. The latter one clearly advises that it’s better to be medicated than upset or angry.  And that is what most of the culture follows. We also hear a sexist phrase: “Drama queen” directed to young women emphasizing the need for a stoic presentation in the face of difficulty or conflict. We could conclude that what is valued is being in some sort of emotional shut down. This is the meaning of “strong” for many people.

Following an internet search, the word “emotional” has negative connotations connected to the “arousing of intense feelings that are easily excited and openly displayed.  ‘Emotional’ can also mean a wide variety of psychic or psychological manifestations that usually are considered frightful. I am not sure if other cultures that express emotion more openly have better emotional literacy and how that would affect or improve their mental health.

However, what seems to be frequent in many cultures is a diminished sense of emotional literacy, even in well-educated individuals. What I mean about emotional literacy is having a good idea about and a comfort level with what we feel and how it feels in our bodies. This is frequently not the case. Many individuals are afraid of feeling anger as it has always been something corrosive and would result in harm. Yes, it can be harmful but only if bottled up and rarely accepted or expressed.

This happens with other emotions as well. In my role as a counsellor I frequently find individuals who cannot handle any type of negative emotion, which is interesting as life is a compound of experiences and situations that are not always positive. It is similar to having to go through life being unable to smile and feel joyful, which would be tragic.

Part of what counselling does is to assist individuals in increasing their emotional IQ by making them aware and comfortable with emotions and feelings that otherwise they would not necessarily appreciate. It’s interesting that yoga and psychotherapy have that in common: both can assist us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable

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