Someone with whom I work had a bonafide emotional melt down the other day. I'm not a big fan of public displays of emotional volatility. In fact, I really hate them. I like to think that I am a compassionate person and I certainly understand the kind of extreme anxiety that can make people a little crazy, but I just really don't care to watch people emotionally explode or implode all over the place.
There are people who find themselves in situations they just can't handle and I get that. There are people who suffer from serious breakdowns that require a skilled mental health professional and serious medication. There are people who just need a moment to vent or rant and then they can take a deep breath and soldier on. But there are also people who want attention no matter how they get it and other people who just like to throw hissy fits.
After careful observation of the person of whom I speak, I came to the conclusion that what I was observing probably classified as a hissy fit. It wasn't that this person didn't have good enough reasons to be upset. She had suffered some bad things during the year. It was just that the excess of emotion had been ongoing for so long that it was becoming, well, rather annoying.
Bad things happen to us all. What had happened to this person were the kind of things that happen to everyone; old people die, old animals die, it is the inevitable conclusion for all things and everyone has to deal with these kinds of things multiple times during their lives. It becomes truly difficult when it makes no sense to us because it happens to the young or due to an accident or some incomprehensible illness. Then it can be a tragic kind of painful grief that seems unbearable.
Death will come to us all and to those around us. This is just the way it is. If we are lucky it will come after a long life and without too much suffering. We mourn those who leave us in old age, but our mandate, as living creatures, is to carry on. The only other option available is to not carry on, which doesn't really seem like much of an option at all. To me, how we handle these things when they happen is just a measure of our character. As is always the case with some human beings, strong emotional can be excessive to the point of becoming almost a parody of itself.
Back in the day, there were some pretty ritualistic expressions of grief across many cultures. When an Egyptian Pharaoh died and was hauled off to his treasure-filled tomb, his sarcophagus was followed by a whole bunch of slave girls who were required to howl incessantly all the way and do dramatic things like tear at their hair and rip their clothes. I have grave doubts about any spectators or participants in this spectacle actually buying into it, but it was part of the entire ritualistic business and I suppose people would have been shocked if the performance were missing from the event.
This kind of public performance of grief continued right into the Victorian age, although the dramatic mourners were paid for their efforts eventually. For all I know, it still continues to this day in some parts of the world, although if it does, I am happy to say that I don't know about it. >From the time of the pharaohs to the time of Queen Vicky, these professional or slave mourners were always women, because, as we all know, women are soooo emotional and men are required to be stoic and bear their grief with some dignity. Women, on the other hand, were expected to carry on like a pack of howling hyenas and destroy their wardrobes and hairstyles, thereby proving that they never had any dignity in the first place.
I recall that when I was in college we learned about a tribe that was constantly in conflict with other tribes who lived nearby. The men, naturally, were expected to fight while the women, as per normal, were expected to send them off to do it. Killing the other guys was considered a really good thing and when the victorious warriors returned home they were treated almost as gods. If they died, they were mourned as heroes and treated like dead gods. For the women, however, it wasn't over. If some male member of their family unit died one of the women was forced to honor him and express her grief at his passing by having one of her fingers cut off. Seriously, they would take a large knife and chop of a finger of a wife, sister, mother, daughter, or 5th cousin 22 times removed if that was all that was available. Many of the women of the tribe were missing multiple fingers but were still required to cook, clean, take care of the children and the home, and do all the other hard labor that they always did.
When I learned about his traditional method of dealing with grief I was naturally, horrified. Horrified and pretty angry. It became very clear during the course of the documentary that the women were not on board with the constant fighting and not at all happy about sending off their husbands, brothers, and sons to kill and be killed, and while it should have been more than enough suffering for them to lose one of those people to senseless nonsense, it wasn't. They had to lose an appendage as well, because, you know, they hadn't suffered enough. On the up side, they weren't required to rip out their hair. Probably because it isn't that easy when you are missing half your fingers.