When you were young, you thought, said and did things that weren’t politically correct.
But someone corrected you, and you learned.
Here you are now.
Political correctness is something you care about, or you’re at least well versed in what it means. Because it’s part of the society you live in.
The problem is, that politically incorrect little boy or girl you once were — never grew up.
You might have gotten older and more sophisticated, but he or she is still with you.
You inner child, ego, subconscious, emotional self — however you want to personify it — won’t “go away.”
Because you are multidimensional as long as you’re breathing.
Feelings don’t lie
We get really good at lying to ourselves about our feelings.
Emotions aren’t always politically correct
Emotions are contingent upon the thought processes that underpin them. Oftentimes what you (subconsciously) think — is politically incorrect. Because it’s self-centered, myopic, angry, or a social heuristic (like a stereotype). And you’ve been especially conditioned in certain (dysfunctional) ways as a defense against pain and disappointment.
If you pay attention to what you’re really feeling (which means, what you’re really thinking), you’ll notice that it’s not always nice.
Let’s look at an illustration.
How a boy’s autism affects his older sister
At 8:29 in Part I of Robert Macneil’s “Autism Now” series on PBS Newshour, Macneil describes how his grandson Nick’s autism affects his family.
He proceeds to interview Nick’s older sister, 10-year-old Neely (Macneil’s granddaughter). Pay attention to the bold phrases:
ROBERT MACNEIL: When you think about the future with Nick, what do you feel about that?
NEELY: Well, I hope that I — I hope that he doesn’t have to stay with me, kind of, and that I hope that he gets healed soon. Sometimes when other people, they — their lives seem perfect, and when yours — when yours — you have to do something that you don’t like, you don’t usually want to do it, and though your autistic sibling does, and it seems unfair. And it seems like they get what they want and you don’t.
Notice how Neely says that she doesn’t want to have to take care of her brother for the rest of her life? And that it’s unfair that her life revolves around his needs?
That’s not at all politically correct. But it’s how she feels.
And just because she feels that way doesn’t mean that she always will feel that way. Or that she has to act on those feelings in a destructive way. Or that she will always resent her brother. Or that she is a bad or ungrateful child.
By admitting to herself how she truly feels, she’ll be much more likely to remember them and heal them, down the road when she’s old enough to fully process them and choose her responsibilities.
If Neely were to suppress her true feelings, the wound would be buried, and she’d have much less chance to heal in adulthood.
Staying true to your feelings
In the next part of the interview, Neely’s grandfather tries to talk her out of her feelings by using a cognitive reframe:
ROBERT MACNEIL: Well, one of the things about life is that we all learn we have to do things we don’t want to do, whether there’s autism around or not.
It’s an indirect way of saying: “Are you sure you want to feel this way? It might be unreasonable.”
But having the honesty of a child, Nelly doesn’t let him convince her not to feel the way she feels:
NEELY: Yes, but it seems like it happens too much. I mean, there’s going to be a few times when that happens, but it seems with an autistic brother or sister, it always happens.
It’s as if she’s saying:
I’m not talking about some general notion about life, and how it’s not always roses. I’m talking about my life — and how it revolves around someone else’s needs.
What Nelly essentially does is healthily deflect a deflection made by Macneil — which he made as an attempt to minimize her negative emotional response to her brother’s autism.
This exchange is much more powerful to watch (you can fast-forward to 8:29) because you can sense how conflicted Neely is to show her true feelings. And how she has the courage to be honest nonetheless.
Neely is very lucky that her grandfather gives her a safe space to talk about her feelings. I cannot emphasize this enough.
You can’t be 100% politically correct, but you can create your safe space
When you were Neely’s age, you felt like she did about many things. You felt that things weren’t fair. That it could have been so much better. It’s only natural. No child lives in a perfect world.
As you grew up, you learned how to turn off, ignore, or disidentify with those feelings. And you probably had lots of pressure from older people to banish your emotions in order to be a “good person.”
Today there are probably still certain things that don’t feel fair to you. And no matter how hard to you try to shed your emotional baggage, it still walks around with you.
You can’t really “fix” that. But you can deal with it.
By creating a safe space to embrace your true feelings.
That place may be:
The actual space doesn’t matter. But it has to feel safe. You have to feel encouraged to express yourself, honestly.
Which means you can’t be worrying about being:
So unless you have working agreements with someone who can respect you — without violating you in the any of the above ways (or at least without doing so and then failing to make amends after) — you’re probably best building your safe space in solitude.
Not all of us were so lucky to be accepted for how we truly felt as children.
But all we can do now is make sure that we are heard today. And really, we only need to be heard — by ourselves.
But don’t forget
No one can be politically correct 100% of the time.
Political “correctness” is a human construct, subject to change.
It doesn’t exist in an objective sense that we can verify with 100% accuracy. And we constantly re-negotiate what it means.
You’re the only authority who matters in your life.
Start living that way.