Entitled to Feel


I’ve been thinking about entitlement a lot lately. About what makes people feel that they are entitled to say, do and feel something. Perhaps it’s because there has been so much about rape in the media and men feeling like they are entitled to women’s bodies…but I think it started because of something completely different.

In society we’ve evolved to give more credibility to people who speak concisely, are rational in their arguments and more cold and clinical, less emotive. And so feeling emotion and the physical and instinctive expression of it has become something that is more a right you need to earn, or a gift under a particular circumstance, than something we are automatically entitled to. Although we might feel a particular way, the actual expression of that emotion is often seen as a crack in that façade of composure that is frowned upon. You are seen as irrational and hence less credible.

It’s sad that our society has progressed so much in the last 2000 years yet we have lost the ability to recognise feelings as something that our worthy of our attention. We dismiss feelings as emotive, feminine, irrational, and imply a lapse of professional judgement. It’s gotten to the point where we can only really permissively expressive emotion if someone dies, if someone is dying, or (depending on various factors like the legality, length, and publicly perceived strength of our relationship) if we’ve had our hearts broken. Any other display of emotion whether its sorrow or joy or fear is seen is somewhat ridiculous or childish. Which brings me to the question, what do I need to do or be, in order to be entitled to feel, in this highly scrutinizing society?

In a society that increasingly assesses our credibility by our ability to maintain composure in a heart-breaking soul-wrenching circumstance, I find myself to be an animal that is soon becoming extinct. Why is a visceral emotional reaction dismissed so easily as unfounded, unreliable, and feral. Surely what separates us from primates is our human ability to empathise and express this emotion. Yet why is our society so screwed up that we have to wait until someone is dying that we are entitled to express what we feel? I think it’s extremely morbid that it is only in situations of extreme sorrow that it suddenly becomes permissible, but not when you are in the throes of happiness, or falling over laughing, or so scared or nervous you shake uncontrollably. I think that in most situations an emotional expression is much more authentic, accurate and credible than any poised articulate statement could be and I wish that more people could see that.

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