Sunday, 5 September 2010

Feelings are like horses

I found this blog post of some interest. Lizzie has 5 children, 4 of which are girls. She writes
But girls are different, and sometimes that difference can leave a person completely bewildered. When it comes to little girls and their emotions, “A”  does not necessarily cause “B.” But, when “B” is what needs to be disciplined, it can feel frustrating to have no clues as to what member of the alphabet actually caused it.

...Say it is someone else’s birthday. Say your child wants a present too. Say they start fussing about it. Imagine then that then you say, “Don’t do that. That is bad. Don’t be a fusser. Deal with it.” How did that help anyone? The child is taught that if the feeling comes over them, they have already failed. That is bad! But what am I supposed to do with it? It doesn’t just go away by itself. Little girls need help sorting out their emotions – not so that they can wallow in them, but so they can learn to control them.
Her post reminded me of similar sentiments from Dennis Prager on a source of unhappiness for women: the lack of teaching on how to control emotions. His take on the current situation
Societies and parents also always knew that it was imperative to teach girls to control their natures – in particular their predilection to be ruled by their emotions. Women who allowed their emotions to rule them not only became destructive (to members of their families first and foremost), they became unhappy women.

However, with the advent of contemporary feminism and other social trends that coincided with the rise of feminism – among them the elevation of compassion over standards, the great emphasis placed on feelings, the rejection of patriarchy and the devaluation of traditional masculine virtues (like subdued emotional expression) – female nature came to be seen as far less in need of discipline than male nature.
I am even more inclined to view Prager's thesis with merit. But the main problem in not that girls have these feelings, nor for that matter that boys are more likely to struggle with aggressive feelings; the problem comes when we deny that girls have to subdue their emotions to their wills, or if we admit this but fail to teach it. We need to acknowledge the emotion, though we can identify it as sin when it is, then encourage them to bring such feelings under the dominion of their will. They are to make sure they choose the right path regardless of what they feel like doing.

Lizzie's solution is to tell the girls that their emotions are like horses,
We tell our girls that their feelings are like horses—beautiful, spirited horses. But they are the riders. We tell them that God gave them this horse when they were born, and they will ride it their whole life. God also set us on a path on the top of a mountain together and told us to follow it. We can see for a long way—there are beautiful flowers, lakes, trees, and rainbows. (We are little girls after all!) This is how we “walk in the light as He is in the light, and have fellowship with one another.”

When our emotions act up, it is like the horse trying to jump the fence and run down into a yucky place full of spiders to get lost in the dark. A good rider knows what to do when the horse tries to bolt – you pull on the reigns! Turn the horse’s head! Get back on the path! We also tell them that God told us that if we see one of our little girls with her horse down in the mud puddle spitting at people who walk by, it is our job to haul them up, willing or unwilling, back to the path.
I think this is a useful analogy to use for girls. But whatever analogy we use, we need to realise that behaviour responding to emotion is detrimental to both the person and to others. Though allowing our will to be modelled by our emotions is the easier path in the short term, it makes life more difficult in the long term. And realise that submitting our emotions to our will can eventually modify our emotions. A broken-in horse is less likely to want to jump the fences. As Elizabeth Goudge wrote
Feeling can be compelled by action not quite as easily as action by feeling, but far more lastingly.

1 comment:

  1. American culture is uniquely capable of robbing women of their happiness in this respect. It simultaneously teaches them to not control their feelings and then saturates them with images of unrealistic levels of happiness and fulfillment. Sometimes I'm convinced that Hollywood has a reciprocal investment relationship with our pharmaceuticals industry because so much of what it puts out that depicts what women can have is designed to hit all of the right buttons that end up leaving typical women feeling down with thoughts of "why can't I have that too?"

    ReplyDelete

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