Generation X: Fuck Feelings
After 18 months intensive self improvement, and having devoured 50-odd self help books and written over 50,000 words on the subject, this Gen Xer reckons he’s pretty much the same person.
Sure, I had some sweet-ass wins on anger issues, am 3.6% happier, a slightly less shit parent and are set up to retire early (1681 days to go, what evs). But there hasn’t been a parting of Godly clouds revealing some sort of life changing truth.
There’s been no caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation.
There was no moment where I ripped off my glasses, unpinned my hair and instantly turned into the hottest, most popular girl in school (notwithstanding I’m a balding, middle-aged dude).
Leaps and Bounds
But every now and then comes a leap forward. Something clicks, having heard it at just the right time.
Then the landscape shimmers and transforms, reordering itself in subtle but very different ways. You can’t put your finger on it, but everything has changed.
For me, when the shimmering stopped, upon the path ahead lay these simple words:
The Feelings Industry
That can’t be right, I thought.
But our culture glorifies feelings, weaving them through stories in movies and books and songs. Influencers – old-school and new – promote exciting new ways (and products) to fill every emotional ‘need’ from happiness to acceptance.
Therapists coax us onto their lounges to talk through our emotions ad nauseam ad profitus.
And of course, there’s all those self help blogs…
But what if we the masses, at least the mentally healthy among us, are indulging our ever-so modern selves by endlessly pandering to our feelings?
What if our feelings are actually like some distant, annoying relative that came to stay when we were kids and never left?
And, worse still, what if that relative is in fact stealing the rent money and banging our spouse?
The Fuck Feelings Industry
Of late, an anti-feelings cottage industry has grown in response to the feelings industry.
The anti-feelings view says we pay too much attention to emotions. Negative emotions like anger and jealousy do more harm than good.
Usually helpful emotions like shame and disgust, which keep us in line with social norms, are being ruthlessly exploited in the media for mass entertainment.
The pursuit of happiness is over rated and can have downsides like frustration and envy (also unhelpful emotions).
Even modern parenting wisdom is being called into question as claims emerge that Millennials and Generation Z have been emotionally spoilt and are not well equipped for a world that is bracing for tough times.
A Taste of Spiritualism. No Saviours, Hold the ‘Shrooms
These ideas rattled around my head without really taking hold. Until I somehow found myself slipping into the purple-hazed, unicorn-riding world of spiritualism.
I know, shocking huh? I’m a total skeptic and card-carry member of the Association of Self-Righteous Cynical Assholes that Delight in Bagging Out People that Believe in Vacuous Spiritual Claptrap. Or AOSRCATDIBOPTBIVSC, as they’re affectionately known.
Whilst you won’t find me meditating in a ‘shroom field anytime soon, I did read a book on spirituality (Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul).
It struck a chord. Particularly a theme of the book which I’d summarise as, and which the author would be horrified to be paraphrased as, ‘fuck feelings’.
Feelings: Just Say No
The spiritual version of ‘fuck feelings’ is a world apart from the self help anti-emotions take on it.
The idea is that we (the core of who we are) is not the constant chatter in our head – our thoughts and feelings – but is the part of us that is aware of them. We are not defined by thoughts and feelings.
We are in fact free to dismiss them. To say, fuck feelings and while you’re at it, fuck thoughts too.
We can simply kick back and watch the little nutter in our head get all bent out of shape about yet another red traffic light or that asshole at work that won’t promote us or the family dog taking another steaming dump on the patio.
We simply don’t get involved.
So Many Feelings, So Little Time
This doesn’t mean we should just say no to all our feelings, all the time. I’m not saying to stop feeling love for your family or feeling joy when you’re dealt four kings or guilt when you blow the rent money ’cause the dealer had a straight flush.
We should climb down from our detached awareness of these feelings and submerse ourselves in them. This is the good stuff.
But day-to-day life is also swamped with feelings about all manner of inane and trivial things that are not worth investing ourselves in. Why are we angry at shitty driving or frustrated at petulant computers or ashamed of our cars or clothes?
Why feel anything at all about them?
Of the hundreds of emotions we feel every day, how many of them are helpful?
This was a revelation. Even after all that reading about fucking feelings and how to subtly not give a fuck. The idea that we can detach from the crazy person in our head and be the calm, rational one hadn’t occurred to me.
Was it really that simple?
Well, yes. And a bit no. I’ve been trying this for a while now. I can report that it works, but it takes practice. Old habits die hard.
I found two tips from The Untethered Soul (the cynic in me still shudders at the title) help with silencing the drama kings in my head.
Fuck Feelings: Tips for Young Players
One: Nip it in the bud. When the drama starts, recognise it and stop it straight away. The sooner you stop it, the easier it will be. If the chatter goes into full swing, ranting about the latest slight from the in-laws, your emotions will kick in and you won’t be able to stop it until it’s run its course. (And you’re on the phone to your mother-in-law demanding to know what she really said to Aunt Margaret after her third sherry at the Christmas lunch last year…).
Two: Step back. Take in the big picture. If your inner ranter goes off at the boss for their latest silly decision, step back and remember you are both two little life forms engaged in busy work of no consequence for the blink of a lifetime on a slowly spinning rock in an unimaginably ginormous universe that couldn’t give a flying fuck about anything either of you did. Ever.
Give it a try the next time the neighbour cranks up the Acca Dacca at 9am on a Sunday morning. Rise above your inner nut bag as it imagines racing next door to spray crazy all over your unsuspecting neighbour. See it for its pointlessness. Let it go.
There’s far better things to feel.
Want to read more on feelings? Check out this post on how outrage and public shaming are giving feelings a bad name.
Or, here’s a post on conspiracy theories, if you’re after a laugh.
Sign up to get great content right to your inbox.