Imagine…


Curiously enough, I was watching an interview video with Dustin Hoffman this morning regarding his role in “Tootsie”. I know this is floating around the media right now because of the emotion displayed in the video (it was originally posted in 2012).

Why are we so interested in the emotional response of others? Whether it be joy, fear, pain, anger, or sadness….when any person shows emotion we are drawn to that. Any video can go viral, if you just display enough of one of these emotions.

Hey, watch this kid go totally nuts on ecstasy! Hey, look at this woman fall down the stairs! Look, this man is crying!!!!

Here is what I think we feel:

We watch the kid on ecstasy and feel the following: fear (holy crap! what is going to happen to him), elation (wow! I wish I could feel like that..just once!) shame (what a douche! when really that was us last weekend)

We watch the woman fall down the stairs: fear (omg…is she dead?) elation (I am so glad that wasn’t me!) shame (I shouldn’t be laughing at this…others getting hurt is not funny)

We watch the man who is crying: fear (what the hell is wrong with this guy!) elation (thank god I don’t cry in public!) shame (I don’t cry in public, but I cry at home….I’m an ass!)

I see a trend. The reason why we are so fascinated with emotion in others, or emotion itself is because we have polluted the water (so to speak). We have for the longest time been told that emotions are bad, they are private…you don’t bring them to work, you don’t display them for others to see, you hide them from the people who are even closest to you. We get our emotional fix by watching others who display their emotions….books, movies…tv shows…youtube videos….

We watch people we admire have emotional break-downs and then throw trash at their heads. We applaud when they go to rehab or get psychiatric help, and at the same time they are never quite as good as they were before. Not as shiny, pretty, bold, strong. These are the illusions that we set up not only for ourselves, but ten fold for everyone else.

What Dustin Hoffman “confesses” (that is the word used by the media) is that he realized by playing the role of “Tootsie”, that he had been judging women by their outer appearance and that had cost him the friendship, companionship or even love of some women he would really have liked to spend time with.

He is emotional in the interview…very much so, even though you can see he is trying very hard to hold back the flood gates. It is beautiful to watch.

Why do I think Dustin Hoffman crying on a video is beautiful?

My dad never cried when I was young….he was born 1941, grew up in the 50-60s, when men did not show their emotions. I saw him cry a total of two times before I was 40. He is 72 this September and he cries freely with me on the phone, although I can feel him trying to hold back the floodgates. What opened him to feel, was the passing on of his wife.  So many years, but that is what it took.

In my marriage to my ex-husband, if I should cry about something, he would be quick to tell me to stop and not to cry in front of my children…it would upset them. I don’t show a lot of my feelings: pain, fear, etc….I don’t even try to hide them, it has become automatic….they turn into anger if I even try to talk about them though.  I am learning to process first and speak later.

Sometimes feeling our emotions can be overwhelming. Frightening. What will people think? Will they be afraid of me? Will they think I am weak? What happens if I cry at work? Will I get fired?

One of the things we are definitely feeling now is emotional, we are here to have a human experience and humans have emotions. The problem has been that we have forgotten that, and have built impossible rules around emotions: Never show anger = I will eventually have explosive anger.  Never cry at work or in front of your children, your parents, your girlfriend…whomever = I never express my feelings because I am too afraid to do so. This causes us to keep our emotions locked away where they fester and become distorted, and can ultimately cause illness.

We then classify this as mental illness.

What is mental illness? Mental illness is what we refer to when a person has an illness that involves emotions and chemicals that the brain controls. The brain is an organ…the most important organ in our body. Without proper brain function all of our systems are in jeopardy. Our brain is the machine, the battery that sparks and ignites our synapses, and allows us to use energy to send messages to the rest of our body….mostly without concentration or even “thinking” about it. It allows us to be alive. When someone is viewed as “brain-dead” they are considered dead. They are kept alive by machines, because their “machine” is no longer working. The body remains alive, but there is no activity in the most important organ of the body.

The brain is like a sponge….it is constantly learning new things…it learns about emotions and emotional discord…it learns depression and it remembers. Once thought processes (pathways) are created through experience, we can relive them….the brain has it on file. Once the brain learns to be depressed it will more likely reoccur. It remembers.

What we need to change is how we experience our emotions. Hiding our emotions, squashing them, pretending they are not there…causes the emotion to morph and become something that we only have shame for in this society. Mental illness is a physical illness with physical and mental symptoms that can ultimately result in death. The stigma around emotion and mental illness only makes this worse.

We can reteach ourselves. The brain remembers. It remembers happiness and sadness, elation and fear, depression and stability. We are the creators. Emotions are so important to us, to who we are as humans. Feel your emotions….you will discover when you feel them and face them, and deal with them….it is so much easier to be human. The emotions pass….they don’t stay locked up waiting to become the tornado that crushes your life. They go….and you are safe and whole, and the brain remembers.