On a recent episode of the Celebrity Apprentice, Meatloaf was fired because he was “too emotional”. The iconic rocker later went on to support Marlee Matlin in her bid to win the final competition, but was under orders “not to cry”. The fact that emotionality was used as an indictment in this situation makes my blood boil. As a psychologist, as a mom, as a human being, I feel fiercely protective of our right to express feeling and not have that used against us as a sign of weakness. The fact is, Meatloaf claimed that he became emotional because he was playing for a tremendous amount of money to gift to a charity that was/is very important to him. He felt pressured, and I imagine, anxious at the possibility that he might lose and so have nothing to give. In other episodes he has had outbursts of anger, so it is certainly worth pointing out that he, at the very least, has a low tolerance for frustration. Maybe he could use some better coping skills, maybe he does have some emotional imbalance, and maybe even, he wasn’t the best choice to continue into the final round of the reality competition.
My point here is not to argue any of those issues. However, my wish in 2011 is that the public perception of emotion or mental imbalance, was one of empathy and understanding, instead of fear and ridicule. Trump mentioned that he lacks the ability to cry, more as a joke or an aside, but also a bit as a strength. In my opinion, the lack of emotional reaction is as much an imbalance as too effusive a reaction. And I would much rather see displays of human emotion, than animatronic coldness as the norm in our culture.
It’s no secret that my kids fight. I mention it often on this blog, they yell, they scream, often they cry. They have huge, messy emotions and I am so grateful. In a time in our history when our children are more social via internet social networks than with play-dates, in an era when computerized games have well surpassed books, board games and even playing outside as the favorite pastime of our youth, I think it is important to remember our humanity.
As a relationship expert I have seen the desperation of a young couple that is looking for instruction manuals regarding how to interact with their partner. They don’t know how to react to various situations or moments in their relationship and they have gotten so far away from trusting their own reactions in an emotional situation that they want me to tell them, literally “when this happens, do this.”… It’s becoming an epidemic, and it scares me.
Meatloaf became emotional. He was sad, he was angry, he was anxious, and it showed on the screen. But for this viewer it was a welcome reminder of something that is missing from a great many of our television shows, specifically reality shows. It was a reminder of the experience that he was having that was bigger than himself, so big it was hard to contain. Look, I don’t know if his experience was one purely of feeling pressure to provide for his charity. It could have been about anything, but it was real and it was authentic and it was refreshing.
My “oy” to Donald Trump is a heartfelt conviction that we need to change our perception of emotion in this country. We need to remember that our emotions are there to inform us, that in primitive times they were necessary for survival, and that if we push them down enough, that becomes it’s own dysfunction. We need those emotions for healthy relating, for dealing with trauma, for thoughtful decision making, and yes, for moving forward in the business world. Caring about something enough that it makes you cry is not a weakness, it is a strength, and for that to be mocked in an open forum on national television is really a shame.