Friday, November 18, 2011

"Don't Bottle It Up" - Horrible Advice

Ever had a bad day? A bad week? A bad month? Does it get to you sometimes? Yeah? Here's some advice from good ol' licensed psychologist Joe from history class, "Don't bottle it up, man. Let yourself go and punch your pillow or something." Wow, Joe, thanks for the advice, I'll go relieve some of my stress now. But wait, is Joe giving me good advice that will benefit me both psychologically and physically or is he just pulling another quote from the books and misinterpreting it entirely in order for me to go away with a acceptable reply/answer? Lets find out.

I don't know about you, but I trust that face.

In reality, "blowing off some steam" and "letting yourself go" is probably one of the worst advice you could ever get from someone that means well. Other than your friend Bill or Robert at english class, thousands of organizations have built real-life therapies for such people with this same concepts; examples would be stress balls and punching bags. But before you start swaying your hand at me in a disapproving and discrediting manner, hear me out.

If a person decides to express their anger and frustration regularly, they may find themselves more angry and frustrated than ever before. The act of taking out your anger by flipping your desk over a loud scream acts as a temporary relief from life's woes and troubles. But who would ever want it to be temporary, right? Why can't we live in the ecstasy of the moment forever? Either consciously or unconsciously, you may find yourself becoming "addicted" to the rush from smacking your boss across his smug face and begin to strive for that same relief you've felt before.

"I got you a gift, it's in the palm of my hand."

But obviously, I'm not saying that you're some type of monster that feeds off the pleasures of pain from other people. While I don't expect every man and woman to run around committing mass-genocide after blowing their lid at the DMV, allowing one's frustration to manifest and take over logic and reason will eventually make logic and reason less significant when making everyday decisions. By pouring your bottle empty at your sibling for simply being a pest, your tolerance levels from supporting personal values and faith to pure illogical anger will decrease. The lines between standing up for yourself (Good) and punching someone for breathing too loud (Bad) will begin to thin.

Hold on one second, something's not right. It can't possibly be healthy to bottle up all your emotions into a neatly packed bundle in your head, right?

Pictured: Life's woes

Right. Instead of screaming at Aunt Margret for burnt toast or silently beating yourself for past transgressions to somehow justify it, you should "let it go" with true and honest, forgiveness and understanding for the goal of moving on and concentration of the more important values of life. It's all about efficiency; dwelling on failure, anger, and frustration won't get you anywhere in life.

The original meaning of "Don't bottle things up" went along the lines of:
"Don't hold in your feelings, confide with your friends and family to help solve your problems instead of letting them build up in your head and cloud your thoughts and judgements"
But somehow, this term became lost in translation and ended up as: 
"Don't hold in your feelings, go punch your pillow and scream like a little brat that can't get what they want. Go blow your steam and give the teacher a piece of your mind! Tell that boss of yours to stick the financial reports up his nostrils! Buy a bunch of guns and shoot up the school so you can express yourself! Because that's what they mean by expressing yourself! Pop the bottle open and let whatever inside flow free!"
"Give me an education, will you?!"

The advice in the context that it's commonly given, refers to the latter example, which makes it one of the worst good-intentioned advice you can get. The next time you're confiding in your friend about some of your life woes and he/she tells you to "not bottle things up", make it clear for your friend and yourself that the only thing you're letting out is the restrictive nature of the hate/frustration you may be experiencing, so that you can you can make sure-fire decisions without being blinded by your hate for tangerine-related products.

How I detest thee citric pulp!