Lately I have found myself reflecting a lot on the social constructs of labelling things as good or bad. It really frustrates me that we have to give things a label, and in particular in the following two areas:
– Food. This one is really common, so much so that I hear it in everyday conversation, that we have good and bad food. Yes, some foods cause negative effects in us, however this is often with over consumption, it is our behaviour that needs to be addressed, the food itself is not bad. Chocolate is not bad. It is chocolate.
– Emotions. Although we don’t verbalise this as directly as we do with food, we live in a world that tells us that certain emotions are good (happy, excited, joy, gratitude, hope, love, pride, amusement) while others are bad (anger, frustration, anxious, sad, guilt, fear). As with food though, these are neither good or bad, they just are.
These emotions that society has constructed as ‘good’ can also cause negative effects; love can cause someone to stay in an abusive relationship (I know it is not this simple, but you see what I am saying here), pride can stop someone from taking an incredible opportunity and excitement can cause people to lose control and be physically ill. On the flip side fear can prevent us from being in an unsafe position, being anxious can lead to us putting more effort into something, and frustration might mean someone creates something new and amazing.
My frustration with putting labels on these things is because of the consequences it can lead to for people. It can perpetuate issues with food; avoiding certain foods, cutting them out completely, creating a focus on it, rather than simply eating a balanced diet that is nourishing. I see this regularly with people labelling a food as bad, and therefore constantly telling themselves not to eat it. All this does is puts this into your head, you visualise it and create the craving for it.
With emotions, the consequences are wide ranging. We have been taught that we need to get rid of the ‘bad’ emotions, not have them or avoid them. This leads to people not learning how to deal with their emotions, to lean into that discomfort, grow and learn about themselves.
– It leads to people suppressing anger and frustration, consequently reaching a critical point where one explodes.
– Fear is never conquered if one does not lean into it, and so phobias and the avoidance of amazing opportunities can occur.
– By hushing someone who is crying (think about what you do with a child, when you are with a friend in public), or trying to make a joke, what we are really saying is this emotion is not ok, we don’t like it, it shouldn’t be shown. What consequences will this have? What are we saying to people about expressing emotion? What are we telling others about sadness?
In looking at the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide the labelling of emotions is a concern. I am not diminishing the physiology of mental illness whatsoever, nor am I saying that it is simply the labelling of the emotion that leads to these consequences, it is all a very complex area. But, one has to wonder what role labelling certain emotions as bad has had. By labelling it as bad, have we enforced the suppression and avoidance of emotions, have we not allowed people to feel, not taught others how to live with feelings, deal with, learn and move on from them?
We all need to be careful with how we are labelling things, how this effects both our own perceptions, behaviours and beliefs, and those of others. Let us just leave things as they are; food is food, an emotion is an emotion. I guess this is my main point, why do we need to label these things, rather than just letting be? Let us all have a range of both these areas in our lives; feel all emotions, and eat a range of food!
Mel H x