By Felicity LuHill
May 12, 2017
My apartment building is right next to an elementary school and I work from home, which means I have the joy of listening to little kids scream in the school yard all day while I work.
And I’m not saying “joy” sarcastically; it really is a joy. As I sit in front of a screen, pounding away at a keyboard, these kids are running around outside, singing songs, laughing, often squealing in delight. While I hear them, I think to myself, “Why can’t I be like that?” But then I immediately think, “I can.”
What strikes me the most is their unapologetic refusal to be anything other than themselves. They express themselves freely and openly, saying loudly things like, “I’ll be your friend, if you’ll be my friend.” My roommate overheard an argument between two children about which one loved their mom more.
As adults, we have been trained so relentlessly to be reserved. In every aspect of our lives, whether its work, relationships, or even friendships, we are supposed to suppress the way we feel. Crying is seen as a sign of weakness, telling someone you love them at an inopportune time is considered awkward or embarrassing.
So much of this kind of suppressed emotion is meant to help keep us in control. But I think we can all learn from this kind of uninhibited form of expression. There is something liberating about saying exactly what you feel when you feel it. People won’t have to wonder what you’re thinking, but more than that there is a calm that comes with expression, a sense of relief. According to The Social Life of Emotions, studies show that expressing emotion can even lower blood pressure. In this way, I think there is a different kind of control that comes with this expression–a control over mental and physical health.
On the Barbershop Books blog, we often talk about the importance of asking early readers how they feel about the books their reading in order to build up different neuron connections to help them learn and remember what they’ve read in the future. As adults, we can build these connections too.
There is so much to be gained from free expression. So tap into your inner child, learn from the children around you, and encourage them to continue expressing themselves as they grow.