Why Emptying Metaphoric Dams are so Important


Suzannah S (Year 9)  

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: that title is ridiculous and nonsensical! But trust me, continue reading and you might just learn something …  

Emotions are at the core of our human experience – both amazing and dreadful – they create the beauty of our lives. The ability to feel joy on Christmas morning (because of course we all love Christmas), grieve for a loss or feel pleasant surprise at an unexpected test result. Most of the time the positive emotions are easy to express, so it’s the negative ones I’m going to focus on, and why they are sometimes so hard to talk about. 

Now we come to the metaphoric dam thing. First, imagine there is a dam inside you. It was built to catch negative emotions and save them for a later time. For example, if you had a sudden pang of irritation at a friend who was sobbing in your arms, (I know, I know, how heartless…) that emotion would be stored in the dam for later. This is fine, it’s not appropriate to address this feeling in that circumstance. The problem happens when you don’t empty these feelings, instead, you fill your dam with them, until it’s full. Now imagine this scenario.  

You’ve had a bad week. You got a D in a maths exam; you were given an infringement for forgetting your diary and your friends had a fight. You have been stewing in your anger and frustration for the past few days and are still fuming when you are picked up from the bus stop by your parent. As you get in the car, your parent says something in passing, like; “how was your day?” or some such thing. And you EXPLODE. You scream at your parent to “shut up!” and in doing so, pour out all your anger from your dam onto them. Your parent gets such a fright that they almost crash the car! 

This is an extreme example, but the reactions depend on each person. Your mental health can also be challenged too. I once had a friend that kept their emotions under lock and key and wouldn’t expel them and, as a result, I noticed changes in their behaviour. The friend finally admitted to being constantly anxious and stressed about things that wouldn’t usually stress them out. This sounded a lot like anxiety to me, and my friend was certainly concerned it was too. But after a long and confusing conversation, they emptied their dam safely out and realised they felt much better for it. 

And if that doesn’t convince you, let me throw some shocking facts at you: did you know that people that bottle their feelings up, increase their likelihood of a premature (big word alert: it means early) death by any cause (e.g., a car crash, drug overdose, getting eaten by a shark, being stabbed, slipping on a banana peel or falling off a cliff) by 30%? And those who suppress their emotions are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with some sort of cancer. This is because phycological stress contributes to the formation of cancer in the body. WOAH! SCARY! 

But with all of the negative side effects of carrying a full dam around all the time, why do people still find it hard to express their emotions? Here is what I think: 

  1. You are scared you will be laughed at. I’m not going to deny that some may laugh at you, generally those who don’t often share their feelings either. You have to find the right person who will listen without judgment. For me, that was my youth leader. 
  2. You don’t think you are bottling your emotions. I have heard many excuses, such as: “I’m just ignoring my emotions, no big deal.” (My male friends) and “I don’t suppress anything, I’m just waiting for them to go away.” (My female friends) and finally; “Go away Zan!” (My 7-year-old brother… I probably shouldn’t have asked him) 
  3. You are encouraged to ‘take it like a man.’ I guess this reflects more for guys than girls, but it is still a thing for both genders. Because of the toxic messages in our media, guys particularly are encouraged to shove down their emotions because ‘a man never cries’ and other ridiculous phrases urge people to uphold an image of ‘toughness’ and ‘perfection’.  

So, readers, have I convinced you to talk about your feelings? I hope so because if not, I just wasted 2 hours of researching and writing for nothing. Trust me when I say it will be better for you in the long run. It may be uncomfortable in the moment but if you don’t empty out your dam, it will overflow all over your life and then you will build another dam, and that one will overflow too. So, empty your metaphoric dam for goodness sake!