Feeling & emotions
The teenage years are incredibly sensitive and formative. It is a time when young people experiment, try new things, become critical of the world around them and learn about who they are. It is also a time when emotions run high: when young people are confronted with “adult life,” all the rules and cultural norms, the hidden and explicit expectations of society, and the pressures and stresses of age can manifest themselves in the form of uncontrollable emotions: it can be difficult to open up and talk about feelings, but at the same time it can be painful to keep emotions inside as “bottled up.”
It is therefore necessary to understand and address this phenomenon in its complexity: how do we adults express emotions? What have we learned from our parents, grandparents or the society around us? What cultural norms and double standards are present depending on culture, age or gender?
In this chapter, we spend time on the world of emotions and feelings, because if we better understand how society regulates human feelings and emotions, we as individuals can become less dependent on oppressive mechanisms and gain more power and thus more freedom to express ourselves.
The feelings we experience provide raw data about the world around us that are essential to how we function: they are how we begin to give meaning to our emotions, and it is crucial to recognize them as neutral signals, not inherently good or bad. Feelings guide us to survive and thrive. Emotions focus our attention and motivate us to take or not take a particular course of action. Therefore, they are all essential to our well-being.
In this, adult people and especially educators, teachers, parents, are not only non-models, but more importantly bridges: through non-formal methodology, it is possible to share and learn together, regardless of age, gender, ability, and cultural background; to train active listening devoid of opinion or judgment, and to learn how to become more aware of what our bodies are telling us: how do we react, express pain, joy, anger, love? Are we able to name all emotions or classify them? These skills can help young people relate to their own and others’ feelings with more awareness, more understanding and less judgment, to achieve overall well-being and healthier communication with the world around them.