Let’s Talk

Talking about our emotions – is important, sometimes even, imperative.


Everyone knows this. I’m sure they do. So why is it so hard?


Many of us in New Zealand ‘talk’ about our emotions through creating, through our art. ‘There’ is where we present our emotional honesty, let it all out … process and reach out … really communicate.


But what about those so ensconced in the ‘toughen up,’ idea that art is never going to be an option. I know of families with endemic emotional suppression – they’ve been at it for generations and generations. They are the type that give shoulder hugs and not only never, ever deal directly with the person they are in conflict with but don’t even admit there is a conflict, ‘what’s his problem?’ ‘He’ll get over it,’ ‘just get on with it.’ They love one another deeply, are proud of one another and are fiercely loyal but by jove there ain’t no way they would tell one another that.


In New Zealand we have a problem with suicide. I want to understand it more. I have never studied mental health, psychology or sociology. But I have always loved people, wanted to help them, even when I wasn’t that healthy myself. In my opinion, despite everything, despite all the disadvantages, biases, injustices, your upbringing might have dealt you, your adult relationships are your responsibility. A shared responsibility adult-to-adult and that includes especially family. It’s your responsibility to break down the childhood roles that may no longer work for you, understand your family as best you can, understand yourself as best you can, identify the positive. Hold on firmly to the positive, recognize any negative that can be worked on and slowly, firmly and with compassion, change it.


Show yourself compassion too. That doesn’t mean making excuses, or stubbornly refusing blame, just admitting we’re human and as such sometimes ruled by emotions. We all like to be admired. We all like to be good at things. But I think it’s important to remember being good at something is about what you actually do or create – whether it be bake a cake, run a marathon, or give a public speech – it’s not about how it stacks up in comparison to someone else. All told, if you are honest with yourself, this doesn’t really factor, it has nothing to do with how you sincerely feel about what you’ve done, or who you are.


It may be that a lot of parents aren’t good at talking about emotions with their children partly because they find it difficult to be honest about how they feel about aspects of themselves. Everyone has weaknesses, moments of shame, moments of pain, admitting to them and talking about them makes them just that .. brief moments, maybe even moments of learning in a healthy life. If your parents were the ‘just get on with it’ type, the type that barely looked up from the television when you arrived home from years overseas – there are probably reasons for this. You can change it. You can break that cycle. Find out why. Make them talk. Uncover their fear. Feel it. Truly empathize with it. Talk to your children and make sure they can talk about their emotions. Don’t give up on it. Tell your stories and get them to tell you theirs. It’s important.


Life is complicated. Stuff happens. Sometimes we want things we can’t quite have. Things are taken from us, unfairly. We feel alone, unloved. Everyone feels these things at some stage. And sometimes there are worse things, things we need help to understand. We all have stuff going on in our lives and if you don’t speak up when you are feeling these things no one will ever know. You will become powerless. Talking about emotions is choosing to spread them out, inspect them, alleviate them. It’s part of the search for a solution. If you know someone who you really think suffers from emotional suppression, a deep inability to talk about or even admit to their emotions. Don’t give up on them. Share yours with them. Keep giving them the chance to take back some of the power and talk about their emotions.


It’s really not healthy to keep everything inside – bottle everything up. The bottle will explode. Injuring not only you but all those around you. Don’t let it get to this.


Parents talk to your kids. Kids talk to your parents. Don’t give up on each other. Give each other the chance to be healthy.


All I’m saying is ….


Let’s talk.





Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or www.depression.org.nz


Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education and Research (CASPER):www.casper.org.nz




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About duendest (Tina Cartwright)

Tina Cartwright grew up on the East Coast in the South of New Zealand. She lives and works in Melbourne. Her children’s picture book, Kiwi and Scorpion, was published with Penguin NZ in 2008. She edited and translated Taking Latin America Home – a self-published anthology influenced by Latin America which raised funds for the Sweet Water Fund in Nicaragua.

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