On Becoming A Woman/Man Chapter 10

Chapter 10

How Do You Feel?

Chapter 10 in On Becoming A Woman is, word for word, identical to the corresponding chapter in On Becoming A Man. I have therefore decided that they are the same post.

In case anyone is keeping track at home, that’s basically 3 chapters he’s copy and pasted so far (2, 9, and 10.)

This chapter… I actually found it rather triggering. I’m not saying he’s completely wrong and that this advice doesn’t have it’s place, but I am saying that the author ignores the fact that depression is a very real problem. Some of the things he says are also things my verbally and emotionally abusive parent used to tell me.

The author begins the chapter by talking about a photography project he was working on. He and his partner didn’t finish, so the author asked if they could get together the next morning to complete the work. The photographer thought about it, then told him he would have to wait till tomorrow to see how he felt.

A month ago I would’ve called bullshit on this story, but since then I have worked with a woman like this. She would come to work and then only do the things she felt like doing. Naturally, she wasn’t employed for too long.

We then get to the meat of the chapter: feelings. Teenagers have very strong feelings, apparently. I don’t remember having particularly strong feelings at that age,but whatever.¬† The author himself had strong feelings as a child, so strong, in fact, that he wouldn’t even do his homework unless he felt like it. The author eventually learned how to control his feelings because that is what adults do.

To a point I agree with this. I don’t feel like going to work most mornings, or getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to feed the cat, but I do these things anyway because they are important.

However, when one doesn’t feel like doing anything, that is usually a bad sign that something’s not right. No, the author will never acknowledge this.

The “Feelings” are an interesting part of every person’s experience. You have feelings and I have feelings, but your feelings are not necessarily the same as mine.

True, I feel complete rage when I read your book. You obviously do not.

Feelings are personal and are determined as much by the individual’s own traits as they are by circumstances.

Yeah, probably. Most people don’t get caps lock ragey when they read your book.

I do know that not everyone is going to have the same feeling about certain situations as I do. That’s a good thing, Otherwise the human race would soon be extinct.

When you feel well you are optimistic and courageous and ready to undertake anything that comes along. But when you feel downcast or blue you seem not to care whether you fulfill your obligations or not.

More or less correct… with an added notation that if one is feeling downcast and doesn’t care whether or not they “fulfill their obligations” more often than not, one should see a non Christian doctor.

The author goes on to talk about intense teenage feelings, and how we can end up taking them out on some innocent person. Fair enough, that can happen even to grown ups, and we really should try to avoid it.

As far as the effect on your feelings is concerned, the same circumstance may cause you to feel one way today and a different way tomorrow. Sometimes you seem to be so sensitive that you are almost looking for trouble. If father reminds you to do something, you react as though you had been treated cruelly. Actually, father means no harm by his remark. He is perfectly friendly and only wants to be of help to you, lest you forget. But when your feelings are at a low ebb you are prone to misunderstand motives and to take offense unnecessarily.

Maybe it’s the fact that these are trigger phrases for me, but this really rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve been told all my life that I’m just too sensitive or that I misinterpret people’s motivates. It’s like I’m not allowed to get irritated with people when they treat me like shit, or even to believe they are treating me like shit.

Let’s take the father in this example. Perhaps he truly is just reminding the child in a friendly way. Perhaps not, though. It’s possible the father has an annoying habit of nagging. Or it’s possible father’s tone of voice was such that the child perceived the underlying anger, even if said anger wasn’t directed at the child.

I’m also not at all sure I agree with the idea that teenagers are sensitive people, but I’m a good decade removed from my teens and I’m also not a doctor so what do I know.

At other times, however, when you just naturally feel cheerful, father can make suggestions about your work and you will not be irritated. In fact, you almost thank him for reminding you.

So, why are a teenager’s feelings so sensitive anyway? I hope you weren’t curious, because the author doesn’t know. All he knows is that his feelings are a lot less sensitive now.

Even though he doesn’t know why teens are so sensitive (theoretically) he is going to speculate.

Feelings are directly related to the amount of nervous energy available. When you possess abundant nervous energy you feel optimistic and courageous. When you are nervously fatigued and have used up your supply of nervous energy, you become downcast and depressed.

What about people like me, Shryock? I honestly can’t remember a time when I haven’t felt down and depressed. This paragraph is mostly spot on, but with my depression, I have very little nervous energy to work with in the first place.

Thus a person who is physically sick feels dejected and cheerless, because he does not possess as great vitality as when he is well. But when a person is well and is not fatigued he is confident and fearless.

I will agree that a physically sick person is always going to feel better than a physically healthy person. However, the same is true of mental illness. Someone like me who is mentally ill would love to be healthy and confident and fearless. Actually even if I didn’t have depression I doubt I would be fearless, but that’s another rant.

As a teenager, you have a lot of nervous energy. If you use it up too quickly, like when you stay up late at night, you’ll feel irritable and depressed the next day. It can even take a day or 2 to get back into the swing of things after such events. You need to get lots of sleep at night so that you can recharge your batteries.

Another factor that makes your feelings so sensitive is that you have recently come into possession of adult characteristics. You crave recognition as an adult. This is right and proper, so long as you conduct yourself as to deserve favorable recognition….when some unpleasant circumstance arises you take it personally and feel downcast.

Maybe I’ve just been told by too many verbally abusive people not to take things so personally, but I feel like telling someone not to take something personally is often a way of saying “don’t be offended even though I just did something offensive.”

If your parents tell you you can’t go swimming with your friends because you have homework, this often makes you quite upset because you feel as if your parents don’t trust you. They are using your homework as an excuse to separate you from your friends. Your parents don’t think like that, you’re just misinterpreting things.

Well, perhaps. Perhaps not. There are some parents out there who really are like that, particularly Adventist parents.

As you get older, you’ll learn that when you do good things people will respect you, but when you do bad things people will disapprove. Also, certain people have naturally friendly personalities while others are just kinda mean. You should learn to make allowances for people who don’t feel well. Sometimes when a person is mean, it just means they are having a bad day.

For the most part there’s really nothing I disagree with here. I disagree with the author’s idea of good and bad conduct, but let that pass.

If you were to keep a feelings  diary and look back at it over a period of 2 or 3 months, it would surprise you to observe that the periods when you feel optimistic and courageous seem to come at regular intervals. Your cheerful moods alternate with your periods of depression, for your feelings come in cycles.

My what? As a teenager I think I was just confused by this. I have had depression all my life. There are periods of life where the depression isn’t as bad, but it’s always been there. Also, the author here is not talking about menstrual cycles, at least, not yet.

In older girls and women this cycle of feelings often corresponds to the sexual cycle. There is a tendency to feel downcast just before and during the period of menstruation, which normally occurs about every 4 weeks. When a boy understands this he will be patient with a girl when she seems less cheerful than usual.

No he won’t. Every time a girl gets mad at him he’ll accuse her of being on the rag. It can’t possibly be that the boy himself is being a dick. He’ll just blame it on her period and ignore what she’s saying.

But boys and men also experience cyclic changes in their feelings. These changes do not coincide with any function comparable to menstruation. Therefore there is a greater variation in men than in women in the time intervals between these periods of high spirits.

Men don’t menstruate, so they get to feel good more often, I guess.

It is well for you to know 2 or 3 tricks that you can play on yourself to keep from feeling too downcast and enable you to carry on in spite of your feelings. Only as you learn to control your feelings and make them servant rather than your master, will you arrive at an ideal adjustment in your personality development.

Young men/ladies, if you have depression, you just need to learn a trick or two to get yourself out of it. No need for therapy and medication.

Has anyone ever been through an SDA depression seminar? If so, did they teach you this song? Sing to the tune of yankee doodle:

Feelings come and feelings go and feelings are deceiving

Put your faith in the word of God it’s something worth believing.

If that sounds annoying and stupid, it’s because it is. And of course, I was told I had a bad attitude for not liking it and that I needed to control that. I’m supposed to force myself to enjoy annoying songs I don’t like, apparently.

The first way to control your feelings is to make sure you have an adequate supply of nervous energy. You can get good sleep at night, not take the stairs 3 steps at a time, etc. If you are careful with your supply of nervous energy it will last the day. If not, you will lose it and become depressed and irritable.

There is something to this, kind of. As a depressed person, my amount of nervous energy is not as high as someone else’s is going to be. I realize that I can only spend my “energy points” on certain things. I can either do house work OR homework, but I may not be able to do both, especially because I have a job to go to. So I use all my energy points on homework because college is ultimately more important than vacuuming. It’s not an ideal way of coping but it works.

So there is something to this, although I’m not convinced taking the stairs 3 at a time is going to exhaust an adolescent.

Your attitude toward your feelings is another consideration that should help to keep you from giving way to them. If you are sorry for yourself when you feel downcast and discouraged, it will intensify your depression. But you should say to yourself, “this is not my normal self. I am naturally optimistic and courageous. I will soon pass through this temporary period of depression, and then I will be my optimistic self again.”

Except that that’s a lie. I am not naturally optimistic, and my depression never seems to go away. The author doesn’t seem to have anything to say to people like me. There should be at least a paragraph saying that if you never seem to feel anything but depressed, you should probably see a doctor about that.

You’d better make sure it’s a non Christian doctor, so they can give you some non Christian anti depressants.

By refusing to take yourself seriously when you feel downcast, you will be able to maintain your usual pace of activity.

Yeah, not how it works when one has depression.

To an extent, the advice here isn’t the worst. I mean, you shouldn’t live your entire life only doing things you feel like, but at the same time, if you’re downcast all the time to the point you can’t do anything, it is time to seek professional help.

Plan what you are going to do tomorrow, come what may. If you do not feel good try to recollect that you are only temporarily depressed, and then go ahead and carry out your usual routine.

Fake it till you make it, in other words. Because that’s never led to any sort of disaster!

By thus flattering your feelings a little bit and learning ot ignore your dejection, you will discover that the depression will progressively be less noticeable from time to time.

You are a DOCTOR. Even by the 1960s, you should KNOW BETTER.

Gradually you will develop a disposition that is uniformly cheerful, and people will congratulate you on having an even temperament.

All you have to do is ignore your depression and it will go away! I bet you’ve never tried that before!

Am I being a bit too harsh here? Maybe. My experience with this sort of thing has not been pleasant. There is room for this advice, but too often advice like this is given to people with moderate to severe mental illness. I used to try these things and wonder why I still couldn’t make myself do stuff.

Fortunately, I got over my feelings about doctors and sought one out. I still haven’t found a medication that works, but at least I now have the freedom to try, and the freedom to admit that I may not be able to control the depression on my own.

Depression is not a moral failing. It’s not my fault. It’s not just that I refused to try and get control of my feelings, it’s that, to some extent, I can’t. There’s no shame in that, and there’s even less shame in going to a medical professional and admitting that.