The Queen of My Self

By Carol Tandava

“I’ll give you something to cry about!!!”

A young mother slaps her crying toddler on a subway; the kid shrieks even louder. In another car, a mom continues chatting with her friend while her own child wails.

In both cars, onlookers have a variety of reactions: Horror, impatience, resentment, resignation. In the second car a woman makes faces to amuse the bawling child. But really, no one knows quite what to do.

And that is the problem with emotion — whether we experience it in the form of a screaming baby, or in the writhing tensions of our own bodies as life throws events and experiences at us that confound and flummox us — we just don’t quite know how to handle it… because most of us never learn how.

Growing up a sensitive child in a nuclear family, I was too soon aware of the profound effect my emotional states had on my parents. If I cried, threw a tantrum, was unreasonable or contradictory  … then I was a Bad Girl. Or my parents were Bad Parents (the worse option, I felt). Or in other cases, a well-placed tear was a way to get attention and affection. And explosions of laughter could do the same — or the reverse.

In other words, my family was pretty typical: Emotion provoked reaction, for good or ill; it wasn’t an expression for its own sake, but rather carried a volatile meaning to my parents or other adults that told them  not only whether whether I was “good” or bad, but whether they were “good” or “bad.” This is a huge burden to place on a kid, yet adults blithely do it consistently and persistently … because they don’t know how to do otherwise.

And children learn from this that emotion is a means to an end, a way to get a reaction in others. Ironically,  this use of emotion to extract emotion from others — by expressing or suppressing it in just the right way at the right time for the right adult — diminishes the child’s ability to allow emotion to do its necessary internal processing. Worse, the attention and control of others becomes an ersatz substitute for that internal processing — a lot of storm and drama but with no useful effect.

It becomes like eating junk food: You go through the motions of eating, your mouth is stuffed, your belly feels full (at least in the short term), but you are not nourished and end up starving to death.

Is it any wonder that emotion and any expression thereof is viewed with grudging tolerance, if not outright disdain?

So what purpose, then, does emotion have?

Well… this is my theory:

I believe emotion is an indicator of our sense of life force q’i or prana or kundalini or whatever you want to call it.

It can be compared to a flow of energy/vitality, and when it is flowing smoothly and without obstruction, then we feel safe, wanted, loved, of value, and have a sense that our natural expression is accepted by the world around us. Conversely, when we feel safe, wanted, loved, etc. then the energy flows smoothly and creates positive emotion. (The former method is employed by spiritual practices — get your energy flowing and positive experience will follow; the latter, ideally, in child rearing practices — protect, care for your child and s/he will feel loved.)

Negative emotion is the blockage of that energy, and strong negative emotion is an attempt to restore the flow by quite literally blasting out the blocks.


To be continued… Read Part 2 on Wednesday, July 6th.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

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