Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Festive Season - emotional times! So many expectations, hopes, and anticipation:

'It'll be the same as always, the grandmas will start fighting about who has the best recipe and spoil the Christmas dinner: I'm dreading it!'

'Hopefully this year dad and son will come to a ceasefire.'

'It'll be brilliant, the whole family is meeting for the first time in 3 years, everybody is coming.'

And then on the day, all the hell of emotions breaks loose. One has to keep the kids at bay, the family in peace, and the turkey from burning. With several generations in one house old anxieties break open all too quickly; mums are turned back into girls, and dads have to take on the role of boys again, while maintaining face towards their own children.

There is one emotion in particular that I believe is keeping us from growing up. It is preventing us from letting loose of things we can't change anyway, and achieving things we only dare dreaming of in a silent minute when nobody is around:


It is used in emotional blackmail, keeping us from doing the right things just because there are others who might point a finger if we fail. Embarrassment does not allow for fun, and it goes so far that we even bother whether or not strangers find our behaviour or flaws inappropriate. I have tried to get to the bottom of it and came up with other columns like 'What's the Worst to Happen?' and 'How Embarrassing!'. Still: What is this fear of being unpleasant to others? I might not have succeeded entirely, but I gained at least some insight: It seems that there are two levels of embarrassment.

Firstly, the one easier to deal with: Embarrassment on behalf of oneself. It is sort of a one-to-one relationship with the audience. It is the feeling one gets when having made a mistake or a fool out of oneself - the stinging feeling of somebody laughing about me, or the thought that somebody might consider me a silly cow.

This one can be negated by laughing. Start laughing before everybody else does. At the beginning it still hurts a bit, but it becomes a bit like stand-up comedy. The better one gets the more people will laugh about the joke, and not about the person anymore. Laughing frees the spirit, and one might dare doing new things, even anticipating failure and already preparing for the joke to have it ready and in place if needed.

Well, and then there is the second level. The one that isn't so easy to tackle, because it involves people one either loves or is dependant on. All of a sudden the relationship is a triangle. I'm talking about the 'Behave! You are embarrassing me!' situations. And sometimes the signs are even more subtle. We get to know the likes and the dislikes of the people around us very well, and in order to keep them happy and pleased we all to often tend to take pre-emptive action by NOT taking action. Not singing, not discussing certain issues, not asking a question, not putting our noses out there. Because all this makes us visible, and once we are visible our mistakes are as well.

As soon as there is a third party involved, nothing is easy anymore. Being told that I'm a silly cow - I can live with that! Listening in, while somebody close to me is told that I'm a silly cow and realising that this makes him/her look bad - That is hard to deal with!

Oneself is out of control, everything now depends on the other person. Situations like those display the quality of a relationship on a silver tray. The reaction - embarrassment, defence, acceptance, laughing it away, ignoring - will determine how much one will be able to rely on this person in the future. It is nipping into the essentials of social relationship: Trust!

So let us laugh a bit more then! Let us enjoy the company of others and take them as they are, it might come back to us the same way. If we all would laugh a bit more, the grandmas might even stop fighting, mums would be mums and dads would be dads, ceasefires might be possible and it might really be great if we would all come together - the only one losing out would be the turkey, though.

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