Control Your Facial Expressions and Emotions?

Control Your Facial Expressions and Emotions? March 6, 2019

Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies has a pile of one liner ‘Women’s Encouragement’ she’s posting right now. Including on her favorite subject of using a tablecloth. Apparently always using a tablecloth is a cultural thing from her childhood in New Zealand. She’s also been beating on her other favorite hobby horses, controlling your emotions, lest your children see anything but the deepest contentment and smiles on your selfish face.

…and I can only think of one or two circumstances where you might want to exhibit peaceful facial expressions by controlling yourself. I don’t think that having and showing your emotions, your genuine feelings around your children will warp them into hateful sourpusses no matter what Nancy claims. Better to be real and genuine with family, or they’ll wonder what you’re hiding, if you’re okay. You might cause them worry if you are manically grinning all the time.

A book I’ve read and reread recently had this to say about emotions, those things Nancy and other female cultural enforcers insist you control. The book is ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson.

“Emotions evolved for one specific purpose, to help us live and reproduce a little bit better. That’s it. They’re feedback mechanisms telling us that something is either likely right, or likely wrong for us—- nothing more, nothing less”

and

“Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.”

Manson has these interesting things to say about Nancy and pals insisting you control all your negative thoughts and emotions:

“Many people are taught to repress their emotions for various personal, cultural, or social reasons—particularly negative emotions. Sadly, to deny one’s negative emotions is to deny many of the feedback mechanisms that help a person solve problems. As a result, many of these repressed individuals struggle to deal with problems throughout their lives. And if they can’t solve problems, then they can’t be happy. Remember, pain serves a purpose.”

Does that sound like a certain subset of folks you know that are constantly battling with the world over a million issues? It does.

Returning to the issue of keeping a carefully happy facial expression. I can only think of two times in my own life when keeping a calm expression helped more than being genuine. When I worked at a children’s residential treatment center with kids  who had been abused and were constantly on high alert around everyone.

The other one was when we got an abused kitten named Pedro. Pedro would freeze and look scared, scanning your facial expression. You could feel his eyes concentrating on your face as he tried to decide if you might beat him or yell at him.  He was crouched, flexed to run as he did this. He expected abuse. I learned if you kept a slight smile and friendly expression he would relax with almost a cat sigh. It was so sad that he always had that reaction for the first year he lived with us.

Nancy should know that normal people do not need everyone around them constantly grinning. Abused, neglected, emotionally distrait people might, but not everyone else.

So much dysfunction in Nancy’s few paragraphs. What does that say about her understanding of God?


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NLQ Recommended Reading …

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I Fired God by Jocelyn Zichtermann

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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 32 years. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Nea

    I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I’m always shocked when I see in black & white just how stupid the enforcers think their children are.

    YES, your infant does know where the pain comes from when you pinch them for moving.
    YES, your child knows you are dishing out the abuse if you hit them with an implement instead of your hand.
    YES, your child knows the difference between a loving caress & a slap; it’s YOUR fault if they flinch when you reach for them.
    YES, your child knows when you’re lying. About your mood, about your situation, about the environment you’re giving that family!!!

    The Campbell girl running laps in the freezing cold to literally not smother in a condemned house is fooling no one that it’s a “fun game” no matter how she blames herself for slipping up & showing real emotion.

    …but I guess we all suddenly know where she got that from and who her mother is really yelling at right now, don’t we?

  • Tawreos

    Someone should tell Nancy that exhibiting that level of control to keep up a facade is not healthy. Just ask anyone that has spent some time in the closet how well that works out. Maybe if Nancy would allow herself to focus on things that do make her happy she wouldn’t have to work to control her face so much.

  • Saraquill

    Anyone here familiar with “Welcome to Nightvale?” Nancy’s quotes above remind me of the adherents of the Smiling God. Eyes wide open, lips peeled back to show every tooth.

  • SAO

    My observation is that people who repress their emotions find them bursting out in excessive force when something triggers it. The result is the person one is angry with feels like the anger is irrational.

    Example: your teens leave their dirty dishes around the kitchen. You come home from work to face a kitchen-cleaning chore. You don’t say anything. Rinse and repeat until months go by. You come home from work late with a splitting headache after a miserable traffic jam to a messy kitchen and kids asking when dinner is. You lose it and call them lazy, selfish slobs. They are hurt and defensive. Whereas, if you’d spoken to them several times about the mess, roaring ‘get in here and clean this up right now’ would make more sense. Further, your anger will probably make them change their behavior in the future.

  • nmgirl

    This one touches a nerve. I grew up believing that being angry was wrong. I never learned to be angry and then get over it so everything built up to a destructive explosion. But even more so, I never trusted what I was feeling, good or bad. I’ve spent decades learning to trust myself.

  • nmgirl

    That was my life for decades. My mother is proud of the fact that she and Daddy did not fight in front of us. She got mad when I told her she was wrong. That not seeing real emotions and disagreements between our parents left my brother and I unable to express anger appropriately.

  • The Jack of Sandwich

    Quoting a verse saying a happy heart gives a happy face, and then implying you should do the opposite, put on a happy face and hope it leads to happy feelings…

  • Friend

    I have an older female relative who is still trying to correlate facial expressions with emotions. When she was a child, her mother ordered her to smile while she hit her with a wire clothes hanger. It almost goes without saying, but this was Christian discipline. In their later years, her parents were devotees of James Dobson… not sure who they were following in the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Friend

    Of course it’s terrible for children when Mother decides to go through life as a Christian Stepford wife. Children benefit from seeing the normal range of emotions in normal circumstances–along with mature self-restraint.

    At times, though, it might be compassionate for parents to hide or downplay feelings for a little while. Some years ago I had a medical test that suggested a deadly condition. After consulting a psychologist, my husband and I decided to conceal our fear from our school-age offspring for about ten days, while I waited for more tests, a confirmed diagnosis, and a treatment plan.

    Kids and adults deal better with hardship than with uncertainty.

    I would not have felt right showing my fear and saying, “If I look scared today, it’s because I might die, or there might be absolutely nothing wrong with me.” During our ten days of hiding feelings, offspring didn’t really notice anything amiss. After doctors clarified my situation, I was in a far better emotional state, and I could give offspring hope along with scary concrete information.

  • Friend

    There’s nothing scarier than parents who fight only after the kids are “fast asleep in bed.” Don’t ask me how I know this…

  • Aloha

    Great news. That means my kids are set … because hubby and I are always fighting.

  • Friend

    Don’t forget the eerie silences! Those are special too.

  • bekabot

    I can only think of two times in my own life when keeping a calm expression helped more than being genuine.

    It’s interesting that the times in your life when controlling your expression worked to your advantage were the times you were in the presence of fairly severe abuse. Seen from that perspective, Nancy’s advice no longer sounds like it’s geared toward helping people negotiate the ins and outs of normal life; it sounds like it’s intended to get them to manage ongoing trauma instead. Just saying. (Purely speculative, and as always, JMO.)

  • Nea

    Nancy, who has “disappeared” adopted children and ignored the needs of her own daughter and grandchildren as they tried to survive while living in a mold-ridden, smoke-filled shelter on the family compound very likely can’t tell the difference between ongoing trauma and normal life.

  • AFo

    I remember when I was in high school, a popular, well-liked student killed himself. The next day, the teachers were instructed to continue on with the normal day, and to not act any differently, ostensibly under the theory of helping us move past the trauma. As I’ve learned in my own teaching career, teenagers are experts at spotting bullshit and hypocrisy from adults, and it was no different 16 years ago. My history teacher was struggling to get through the lesson with a group of checked-out, non-responsive kids, when someone said “Mr. B, do you even want to be teaching us right now?” And he answered “No. It feels wrong and it’s pointless, since I’m just going to have to re-do this when you’re ready. Let’s just talk for a little bit.” Allowing us to act like normal grieving humans was the best thing that could have happened that day. Forcing people to hide their emotions and function on autopilot doesn’t work, especially in an extreme situation. Not to mention that smiling 24/7 is inappropriate and creepy.

  • Friend

    At our local high school, the family of a student who took her own life forbade the school from doing anything beyond a death announcement email. The school had to do suicide screening for all students under district regs. But there was no vigil, no game played in her memory, no opportunity for students to express themselves. There were three deaths in five years, each handled very differently from the others, because of family preferences and needs. It felt upsettingly random to the kids.

  • Ruthitchka

    Sounds like my parents. I only on a rare occasion would witness them arguing or Dad being a bit violent, for example throwing a full whiskey glass across the kitchen (vaguely towards Mom) and seeing the shards slice our cheap, yellow vinyl kitchen chair.

    In my former marriage, I wasn’t allowed to object to my husband’s bad behavior. It was very much like the pretending that went on in my alcoholic home growing up, where we almost never saw my folks argue. My marriage situation felt familiar and easy to adapt to, but I didn’t LIKE it, ha-ha.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for loving that poor little baby! Thank God he got love.

    Also appreciate the important info in this article. Nancy and co. are like barometers of what’s unhealthy in these systems.

  • smrnda

    Does she also not get how what facial expressions people show when is culturally variable? Not every culture views constantly grinning and smiling as normal; do it and people will think you are unhinged.

    And complaining, whether from adults or kids, has a purpose. Growing up I heard many adults complain, and sometimes what I learned was ‘I guess being an adult means you have to do things that suck now and then.’ And complaining can be important since people need to vent.

  • persephone

    One of my first jobs was as a classroom aide at a first and second grade school. I was assigned the special education class. He physically disabled kids were so much easier than the abused children. Emotional abuse is so destructive. By March, I was going home every afternoon with a stress headache from clenching my teeth. The next year I transferred into the office. I was already stressed enough dealing with the JWs, and that was when I started looking into getting out.