Emotional Bankruptcy

Emotional Bankruptcy


This is a difficult subject for me to address for one main reason. I fear I do not have the words to adequately address it and worry that I may trivialize it.

Now this is NOT earth shaking life changing. It is merely an observation and was triggered by something I saw in passing the other day.

I was reading on line about the celebrity deaths publicized in headlines in the last couple of weeks. You know, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Rene Angelil, Kitty Kallen. Some names more familiar than others. Any way I glimpsed a quote from some actor – no I don’t know who, it all happened as I was clicking to another page, a quote that said something about our displaying emotion or something like that. I cannot remember the quote but it did trigger a remembrance of back thoughts. Those thoughts that pass through our brain, not staying, but not going so far away that they cannot be recalled in an instant.

I have always been impressed by the British, and not because fifty percent of my heritage hails from Scotland. I have always viewed them as being strong in character. I remember watching a film when I was a child. In the scene were three men, one of whom left the room suddenly. The second fellow looked at the other who said, “Personal problems.”

“Oh, I see.”

Nothing more needed to be said. There was just an understanding. No further explanation needed. No sobbing dragging out of the innards for all the world to see.

You see, a few decades ago, when it became acceptable, nay, desirable, to give expression to personal feelings something changed forever in our society.

There is something strong about the whole ‘stiff upper lip’ thing. There is strength of character.

Now please do not get me wrong and assume I mean that we should never discuss that which is very personal. What I mean is that the discussion takes place between two people. The object of our sharing is very selective. I guess a lot has to do with media – this very public sharing of every aspect of every emotion.

Secretly I have this fear that by baring it all to everyone that we are creating emotional bankruptcy although how is very difficult to explain. There is, I think, an inner secret part of us that is strengthened when we stiffen that upper lip.

VERY IMPORTANT! I am in no way suggesting that everyone does this. I personally know a lot of folk that share a bit with us and carry on. And I would never suggest keeping it all in when it would be detrimental to our health.

Not at all, but I think society as a whole is poorer. As I write this I think I may appear way off base on this. Maybe this is one of those times when I should suck it up and stiffen that upper lip. Which by the way I think many still do.

But I have to ask: is it necessary to bare all to have some understanding or kindness for another? Is it possible to support someone, with personal problems without knowing every painful iota of that person’s suffering?

I like to think it is. I fear I have missed the point I wanted to make.

25 thoughts on “Emotional Bankruptcy”

  1. I think emotional baggage used in a positive way, to change your life for good, can be okay. Using it as an excuse to escape life, love, family…. that’s a problem

  2. I’ve thought about this a lot. I lived in Germany for many years and at first I found it unsettling how even-keeled and unemotional Germans seemed to be, but I grew to respect their control and understanding of their own emotions. I think perhaps emotion can work like a broken dam: once the wall breaks it can be hard to stop the flow.

  3. I am astonished at what some people share on facebook and through blogging. I would think the sharing of personal things should be confined to a very tiny circle of confidants. In addition with the advertising of problems on social media one is setting one’s self to victimization by some very talented manipulative people.

    1. The generations following us Carl seem to be willing stepping into the mass info sharing guided by the purveyors of these sites. I used to think I was an open book to all and cannot fathom now why that thought was important. But now I realize over sharing somehow makes us less. And the whole victimization thing is scary.

  4. Chris, This reminds me of the adjective most often used to describe my mother who died at 95 in 1998: stoic (who was Dutch), and I agree the lines are very blurred now. TMI often pervades. I like your comment that fewer words can lead to to an “understanding” and that’s enough!

  5. You didn’t miss the point Chris, you nailed it! We need to keep a little of ourselves to ourselves, we don’t need to be an open book to everyone. Filtering ourselves is the key. I am Scottish by birth and sub-consciously have that “stiff upper lip” aura, sometimes it annoys me but sometimes I think it’s a safeguard.
    Because of our involvement in social media today, this is a much needed and thought-provoking post Chris, thank you.

  6. You expressed your thoughts quite well, Chris. I’m a very private person, but I have to be visible on social media because of my work. I’ve been aghast at some very personal things shared on Facebook. There’s a reason the phrase “too much information” has become popular.

  7. I don’t think you’ve missed the point at all. Long before social media, mainstream media began to do this by showing us people at their most vulnerable – such as capturing a mother weeping as they buried her child. I have felt, for decades, that this is voyeurism at its worst. This is an example, I think of what you are expressing here. We do NOT need to know, see, hear people’s deepest pain. We can be caring, kind,concerned human beings without that. And healthier ones to boot.

  8. I think I got your point clearly. And to me, it makes perfect sense. There is no barrier any more. We are losing filters. And it is creating a myriad of problems. I think you explained it very well.

  9. I think the stiff upper lip can be utilized most of the time successfully, but you have to process those thoughts and emotions sometime, or you really lose it at inappropriate times or go through a box of Kleenex watching sad movies. (I did this the other day). As a nurse you always had to be strong, provide leadership, be in charge. Totally responsible. But sharing little bits of yourself is healthy and necessary. Good thought provoking blog, bridgesburning.

    1. As a retired nurse, I agree. But I’m encouraged by today’s nurses that seem to show empathy more readily than my era was taught to do. And I agree with the necessity to process stuff, but with the right people in a comforting space.

  10. You have it right actually. And most especially in social media there must be a line we do not cross, We must be allowed to keep a little of ourselves to ourselves. I could see you working out this idea as you were writing it and it makes perfect sense and is a very important observation. c

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