• nsughaiyer

Suppressing Emotions in the Arab World

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Photo by Ali Morshedlou

I've been going through tough feelings over the last 24 hours.

There were certain events that triggered the most unpleasant feelings inside of me....

I feel doubtful, envious, and unjustly treated.

I feel unseen and unappreciated.

I feel less than enough.

If this had happened to me earlier before, I would have handled it differently.

I would have numbed my feelings with addictions: food, watching sports, biting my nails, watching movies...

I would have tried to come up with new ways of looking positively at the situation.

And I would have taken immediate actions to respond to the situation.

But that's not how I deal with my feelings anymore.

I now sit with my feelings.

I rest in the discomfort of their overwhelm.

I notice every sensation in my body: head, shoulders, chest, & stomach.

I divorce my emotions from my thoughts and isolate feelings from circumstances.

I allow my feelings to be felt without judgement.

I encourage myself to think less, and feel more.

To respond less, and reflect more.

To ignore less, and face more.

To control less, and surrender more.

And to dull less, and cry more.


In our Arab society, if you are applying such an approach of being fully present with your feelings...

You are considered as though you're dramatizing your life and exaggerating your feelings.

You are declared a danger to yourself.

You are seen as a disturbance to the peace of others.

You are called a weak person who has not gotten their shit together.

You are wasting time, lingering and lagging behind your cousin, your friend, and your neighbour next door who are ahead of you.

And often, you are given two options:

1- Ignore the feeling.

2- Suffer in silence.

If you choose to ignore those options and share your feeling...

You'll be looked at through the eyes of sympathy.

You'll be confronted with interventions by family and friends in the name of saving you.

You'll be given suggestions on how to respond to the situation.

You'll be generously handed over the familiar advice of "Move on with your Life", "Be Strong" and "keep it together" that bandage your wound without cleaning it up.

The reality is...

As Arabs, we have been raised by parents who struggled throughout their lives in order to provide us the security and safety we have now.

They taught us through their experience to look ahead, to move forward, to solve problems, and to overcome challenges. They taught us the important skill of staying strong through tough times.

And while this approach has served us well, it simultaneously promoted emotional suppression. It accumulated unacknowledged feelings inside of us, which could at some point either explode in rage and collapse, or creep in as fatigue and depression.

The emotional episode I have been living through over the last 24 hours is nothing but resurfacing patterns triggered by external events. If I choose not to feel those feelings, they are only going to be shelved and denied their right to exist.

But, nobody should ever shelf or deny their feelings.

Nobody should ever suffer in silence. Nobody should attempt to stop us from expressing our emotions.

We need to provide warmth and shelter to our deepest fears and anxieties.

We need to hug the brave and the vulnerable souls, and tell them that everything is going to be fine.

We need to give grief a room to breathe in.

We need to be strong enough to show our vulnerability and vulnerable enough to gain our strength back.

We need to feel our feelings!

And we need to feel them out loud.

Don't be less than a human!

Happy crying!

Yours in Magic,


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