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September 30, 2012 / Amy Bradney-George

What Are “Bad” Emotions?

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot at different times this year is the idea of judging emotions. Why do we do that?

Last year, while I was training in the Meisner Technique, one of the phrases that stuck was “don’t judge your emotions”. The idea was that if you held some emotions as good and some as bad, that you would end up blocked and unable to be authentic in any moment. I am so grateful to have had that drummed into me in the past and more recently at Meisner Melbourne.

Maybe it’s that theme that has made me notice emotional judgement more, or maybe it’s what I’m exposed to in the media, but I keep hearing phrases like “I don’t want to cry” or “I’m not going to get angry about it”, with the subtext being that crying or anger would be bad.


Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of me crying, but this one could very well be on the verge.

Just the other day I was telling someone about how I’d been crying on Friday thanks to a brilliant combination of very little sleep, lots of work and a minor problem that brought the tears. It’s just one of those things that happens, I thought. The person I was telling, however, seemed more disturbed by the idea of me crying than by the lack of sleep which I was focussed on. It was as if crying was worse, somehow.

It upsets me that people seem so worried about certain emotions.

Fair enough, sometimes emotions can be scary (especially if there is a risk of the emotions leading to aggressive behaviour), but I think suppressing them is worse. If you judge an emotion, you’re likely to try to block it out, and what kind of effect will that have on you in the long term?

I’d much rather address feelings and move on. One of the things that the lovely Clare Dea at Meisner Melbourne used to say all the time was “Have what you’re having, express it 100% and accept that it could change at any moment”. It’s so true as well: there is so much freedom when you really feel something 100% and accept that you could feel another way at any time.

In the context of Meisner training, I’ve seen people go from ecstatic to depressed to enraged to seductive and everything else in between. I’ve experienced it too. One moment I’d be on top of the world, the next I’d be furious at the other actor I was repeating with. It was fine.

Thalia (comedy) and Melpomene (tragedy) – can you have one without the other? Image: Johnson Cameraface

Perhaps the key was that we had a safe environment, and I know life is not always as safe as an acting space. But then I remember once having a huge argument in the food court of a major shopping centre. I remember how angry me and the person I was with felt, and how we both ended up crying at a table while hundreds of people around us ate their lunch. This was a few years ago (before serious Meisner training, in fact), and part of me felt GLAD that I was crying in public. It was freeing.

I guess you could argue it’s part of my profession to accept emotions, but I don’t believe it stops there. After all, I don’t think it was actors or directors who came up with sayings such as “there’s nothing like a good cry” or “pain makes you stronger”. And one of the most apt things I’ve ever read about emotions is from entrepreneur and business philosopher Jim Rohn: “The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy.”

Maybe there is a time and a place for certain emotions, and definitely there are some feelings that are more fun than others, but anything we feel, everything we feel is a part of life.


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