My Indonesian Upbringing: The importance of embracing pain

I grew up being told I was not allowed to cry, to be sad, to be stressed, to be afraid or to have any negative feelings altogether. Perhaps many of you may be able to relate to this upbringing and outlook.

If you asked me how I'm able to suppress normal human emotions, the truth is, I don't. In fact, I now have a mountain of pent up emotions that have negatively impacted my interpersonal relationships and shaped the awful part of my personality -- one that I've been working on for years to undo. Suppressing my negative emotions have also led me to numb my pain and brush off traumatic events, leaving many unhealed emotional wounds but also, making me feel incredibly lonely.

In yesterday's episode of Inframe, Anna and Jen analysed 'Inside Out'. A Pixar film that creatively depicts the neuropsychology behind human emotions and interpersonal relationships. The film follows an 11-year-old girl as she navigates her emotions and feelings as she moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. -- I would argue that the main moral of the story was that it's ok not to be ok; that suppressing your sadness may do more damage than it does good. They also talked about how emotion affects how we perceive the world and our memory; and how our memories affect our personality.

My upbringing was rather different than Riley's; I would be punished when I cried, I was trained not to flinch when shocked and I get scolded even with the slightest mention of the word 'stress'. I was also told by the church always to be happy, to see the bright side of everything, and if I were to feel negative emotions, then I am just ungrateful.

Have physically and emotionally abusive parents.

I'm ok.

Be called an 'idiot' in front of an entire church.

I'm ok.

Your long term boyfriend cheated on you with your best friend.

I'm ok.

Get sexually assaulted.

I'm ok.

Get diagnosed with cancer.

I'm ok.

Saw someone die in front of my eyes.

I'm ok.

I'm ok.

I'm ok.

I never knew how angry and sad I was until it all pent up, and eventually, after 21 years, I was emotionally burnt out -- laying on the cold hard floor sobbing and angry at the world.

That's when I realised that all these years of suppressing my emotions have caused me to have no ability in healthily managing my emotions. I sought therapy and extensively studied how to embrace my emotions more, including the negative ones. I read self-help books and kept a reflection journal.

I worked through my past trauma and allowed myself to feel the pain, the sadness and the hurt. I realised that in order for me to get through it, I needed to acknowledge these feelings first. I needed to understand that it was normal to feel this way and that it doesn't make me weak, it doesn't make me less than and that it is ok not to be ok.

After acknowledging these feelings, I realise that I was able to make peace with them. I was able to work through some with cognitive behaviour therapy, I learnt new coping mechanisms, and after a few months, it felt like a huge burden had been lifted. I was able to not just forgive those who have hurt me, but I was able to also forgive myself. Friends of mine have also mentioned a change in my personality and a difference in how I perceive the world and myself.

After years of treatment, I'm still trying to figure out a healthy balance, but through this, I realise that it is vital to be in tune with our emotions, to understand them and let yourself feel them, that's what being human is about anyway right?

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