I’ll Give You Something To Cry About and Other Emotional BS
I'll give you something to cry about and other emotional BS

I’ll Give You Something To Cry About and Other Emotional BS

It’s a wonder we are as emotionally healthy as we are when you consider that the primary way that most of us learned about emotions was from our parents.  Some of the things our parents taught us about emotions or modeled for us were just plain wrong and unhealthy.  While I think my own case was perhaps extreme, I have talked to enough people to believe that MOST of our parents unwittingly taught us things that were worthless and in some cases counter to what would be healthy.  Just like the rule about waiting an hour after you eat before swimming, our parents simply taught us what they thought was right.  Or they modeled what they had learned from their parents.

Here is a list of some of the things I heard growing up as well as some things that others have told me they heard.

Common Parental Messages about Emotions


  • I’ll give you something to cry about
  • There is no crying in baseball
  • Don’t cry, everything is going to be OK
  • Big boys don’t cry
  • Don’t be sad, everything is going to be OK
  • Stop it you big crybaby


  • Don’t brag
  • Don’t be too cocky
  • Who died and put you in charge?


  • You better be scared!
  • I’ll give you something to be scared about
  • I am going to send you to a juvenile home / call the police
  • If you don’t do this, I am going to beat you!
  • Come on, don’t be a scaredy cat.

Happy / Excited

  • Why are you all happy?
  • Calm down / quiet down / quiet down right now or else
  • Take it easy


  • Don’t get angry
  • Don’t let anyone get to you
  • Don’t let them get your goat

Expressing Emotions

  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Children should be seen and not heard.
  • Don’t say that or you will upset your father/mother

So learning about emotional intelligence often starts with unlearning what we were taught, and breaking unhealthy bad habits.  It is not easy work.  Sometimes these patterns and reactions are so deeply ingrained in us that we don’t even recognize them.  In their book Promoting Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, Gary Cherniss and Mitchel Adler contrast emotional with cognitive learning and the challenges of emotional learning.

“Emotional incompetence often stems from habits learned early in life.  These automatic habits are set in place as a normal part of living, as experience shapes the brain…When habits are strong, the underlying neural connections become the brain’s default option- what a person does automatically and spontaneously often with little or no awareness that a menu of possible responses is available.”
-Gary Cherniss and Mitchel Adler 

The only way to break these patterns and improve our emotional intelligence is with the help of someone else; a friend, spouse, classmate or coach.  I learned through a mentor and a group of 10 men and women that I met with every week for four and a half years!  Though I consider my case an extreme one, we all need feedback to see that we are acting in unhealthy ways and support to make the necessary changes.

I’d love to hear what you think.  What did you learn from your parents?  What are you teaching and modelling for your children?



This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for this insight. I have recently attended an EI 4 IT PM workshop, which though was not that structured for the objectives they laid down, it still highlighted somethings which I internally believed but never was able to share with anyone for lack of awareness amongst people at project management level, or due to lack of inclination, time ot the inability to share what they ‘felt’ as managers of IT projects.
    if it took you four and a half years with a support group, something which I have not come across in India yet, not sure how long it will take me to figure out how ’emotionally’ incorrect I am placed in the large picture of things
    Hence I am seeking still, through your blogs and other related ones, about all that bothers me as a person and all that I need to get aware about before I can unlearn and re-learn better
    thanks for all your deep insights… that connect well and show some light.
    the very basic emotion that pervades me all the time is that of fear. I am becoming all the more fearful of believing in things, believing in the positive and my trust levels in people is falling. Maybe it is the company I am working for, I am not sure. But this thing has surfaced strongly in the last 6 months and I am trying to get over this confusing barrage of thoughts that pervade my mind and make me lose focus of key work.

  2. Shrikant, thank you for your comments. I am glad that you read the post and also happy to hear that you attended a course.
    I can relate to your comment about feeling fear all the time. I spent a large part of my childhood and early career feeling that way. At some point, it became so comfortable to me that I would create it in my life. It was only through a lot of work that I could begin to understand why I was afraid and how I was creating it. It is tough work to do this on your own but the desire to have a better life and the discipline to follow through will help you to succeed.
    If you can orient to the fact that your fears and difficulties with others are almost always coming from within rather than from any external source, you are well on your way to making a change. I recommend that you review my post of today (http://eq4pm.typepad.com/eq4pm/2008/04/eq-lessons-from.html) and see if you can relate to the idea of situation -> interpretation-> emotion.
    Another terrific resource is a relatively new book out from Eckhart Tolle called, A New Earth. Despite the Oprah hype, it is an exceptional book that touches on the issue that you are facing.
    I’d be happy to send you a copy of my own book book; send me your mailing address if you are interested. I wish you were here in the US as I would gladly include you as a guest in an upcoming workshop. Please stay in touch and let me know how your growth work is coming.

  3. Interesting information. I’ve been in a battle with overcoming fear and negative self-talk that has tried to hinder my work as a Christian comedienne. It hit an all-time high as I battled a health challenge. Interestingly I discovered that they are mostly learned behaviors and not always just the ‘enemy’ wielding its ugly head.

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