Towards a More Caring and Emotional World

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Blossoming flowers and radiant sunshine hint at the arrival of April, the month of awakening nature and the end of an academic year. Sprouts poke their heads out all around us, but so do assignments; bees fly across our path, but so do deadlines; the sunset starts later in the evening, but so does our bedtime. Despite the refreshment nature grants, the end of a semester can be overwhelming for many, as looming concerns about final grades, upcoming exams, friendship problems, and vague fears of the enigmatic future can all pile up to create huge distress. Sometimes a delicious meal or a restful nap can help resolve anxiety. However, some concerns leave you with chocolate wrappers and an overindulged sweet tooth without reducing the burden on your heart. Don’t feel bad because these trials and errors you are going through to take control of your emotions are part of an important lesson of college. I would like to share with you one way of dealing with negative feelings I’ve learned this semester: embracing emotion as a part of yourself and adopting the framework of interdependence.

When I’m in a blue mood, the weight that drags me down into the abyss of gloom is often the realization that I am incapable of managing my emotions. Embarrassed to show my vulnerability to others, I used to cry alone all day, binge-watch Netflix, or indulge in sweets. However, after challenging the idea of objectivity and the hierarchical binary of dependence and independence in Professor DiChiro’s Ecofeminism(s) class, I realized there were two mistaken assumptions I had made in thinking that I should be handling my own sentimentality. 

The first misjudgment was conceiving emotion as a characteristic of inferiority. We often tend to associate emotionality with immaturity or irrationality, but it seems that this was a bias stemming from Western ways of thought. In her article, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism And The Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Donna Haraway, a feminist scholar, points out that objectivity has been overly emphasized by masculinist scientists and philosophers of mainstream culture. They distinguish themselves from the “special interest groups,” including the feminists and other marginalized communities, regarding the latter’s ways of thinking as “non-proper knowledge.” However, emotion is valued as a critical factor of knowledge in many Indigenous societies, and recent studies in neuroscience have also highlighted the inseparability of emotion from personal identity, as memory formation entails the attachment of emotion to an event. Joy, grief, and anger are all important factors that make us who we are. 

The second misconception I made was equating the need for care to a sign of vulnerability. Like displays of emotion, to be cared for can be perceived as being needy or lacking independence. However, Sunaura Taylor, an animal and disability rights scholar and painter, in her book, “Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation,” challenges the fundamental presumption in this line of thinking, claiming that “the dichotomy between independence and dependence is a false one.” Bolstered by the celebration of Independence Day or phrases like “independent women,” independence became a desirable virtue while dependence was simultaneously devalued. Independence is not bad in and of itself, but it is a truth that all entities, including those who are “independent,” need care and dependence to live. Taylor illustrates this idea by citing an example of a quadriplegic individual. What rendered them without physical autonomy was the inaccessible environment built for able-bodied people. Whereas able-bodied people receive care from the accessible environment for granted, disabled people were singled out as “needing care,” without consideration of the unfavorable environment they live in. For instance, the former relies on the assistance of stairs to access different elevations. Yet, we never label our dependence on stairs as a vulnerability while deeming quadriplegics who need assistance climbing the stairs as vulnerable. Thus, the equation of needing care equals vulnerability is a false one. We all grow from the soils of love and care. 

Expressing emotion and actively seeking care should be seen as strengths, not weaknesses. Why don’t you ask for help from a friend, get connected with CAPS, or get to know the Crum Woods? Active practice of interdependence will not only heal your end-of-semester syndrome but also make the world a more caring place.

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