My Mind News looks at the increase in public displays of emotion and why this taboo subject is becoming normalized and even being supported by commercial ventures.
Why is displaying emotions still taboo?
Back in 2021, following an emotionally heavy performance, singer Ariana Grande cried on stage. The artist later took to Twitter to apologize, thanking her fans for accepting her humaneness. Producing emotional tears is a uniquely human thing, and yet, for many, our first reaction to crying is to apologize. But why is this?
Public displays of crying and emotional release, especially of emotions deemed unattractive, such as being upset or angry, remain taboo in modern society. This is because there are socially accepted rules that govern the way we feel things.
These so-called feeling rules guide the types of emotions and feelings deemed appropriate to display at certain times and places. These rules tell us that it is acceptable to cry at funerals but not necessarily at pop concerts.
Equally, such rules have often stereotyped certain cultures and genders into particular norms. So feeling rules dictate that men must show greater restraint in expressing their emotions publicly.
A new commercial void
The ever-growing pressure of fast-paced lives lived in 24/7 societies has created a deficiency of times and places for us to release emotion. Consequently, this emotional void has created a marketplace in which organizations and individuals can provide people with places where they can safely vent, let emotions out or release unwanted tensions.
Japan is at the forefront of this industry. The Japanese, often stereotyped in the past as emotionless, have found ways to cater to a growing demand for emotional release.
In response to the stresses of everyday life, particularly among women, hotels in Japan launched so-called Crying Rooms. These made-to-order rooms come complete with weepy movies, a cozy atmosphere, and tissues on surplus.
Such spaces aim to provide women a little time and space to privately release their upset and emotions, free from society’s judgment and gaze.
The Japanese company Ikemeso Danshi is even building a reputation for its cry-therapy services, during which customers watch emotive short films under the guidance of what is termed a ‘tear courier.’ This is one either on an individual basis or as a group activity.
In a culture where crying in front of others is taboo, the cathartic benefits of group crying bring stress relief and relaxation, leading many Japanese companies to embrace the service as a useful team-building exercise.
But it’s not just Japan that has an emotional release industry. Cities worldwide have seen the launch of anger rooms that provide a designated and safe space for customers to release rage by destroying objects.
The Rage Club in London is a monthly event marketed as a game that organizers describe as a place where participants “play with different practices to embody, enjoy and express rage.” Additionally, The Wreck Room lets guests smash things up in a room on their own.
For some, these services represent the unwelcome commercialization of human interaction and fundamental needs. Others will welcome them as a therapeutic experience.
A commonality across these services is that they are an opportunity to release emotions in a judgment-free environment with like-minded others. These are the key features of a relatively new concept entitled therapeutic servicescapes.
The concept outlines how service providers can build an environment where people can healthily release their emotions. Research into this concept was based on a three-year study of the Catholic sanctuary of Lourdes in France.
The study uncovered three key features that help produce a setting where particular emotions are permitted and released. These features involve –
- A space that’s designed to stimulate particular emotions.
- Like-minded beliefs provide a sense of safety, security, and acceptance of the behavior and emotions of others.
- An escape from the dominant cultural feeling rules.
The research found that these features catalyzed emotional release, which boosted people’s emotional well-being. While many of the Japanese services outlined above are aimed at women, the research found the therapeutic environment at Lourdes was crucial to both men and women.
Many of the men who spoke with the research team saw it as a safe space where they could release emotions and cry, free from judgment and stigma. This acceptance of crying, participants said, contrasted with their home cultures, in which they felt they were “emotionally straight-jacketed.”
Meeting a societal need?
This kind of service space’s value is evident, especially when society faces a mental health crisis. Men are often worse affected by the inability to talk about or release their emotions than women and feel unable to display emotion publicly.
Suicide is the number one cause of death for men under 50 in the UK, and suicide rates among US men are four times higher than women. The study above shows the importance of creating spaces where men can open up about their feelings, free from the usual societal pressures that stop them from expressing their emotions.
The health and wellness industry is expected to grow to US$97.4 billion by 2027. This growth indicates a lucrative and promising sector for new organizations to invest in. This statistic shows that the health & wellness industry is on the rise and will likely remain a significant player in the global economy.
With more and more people spending money on healthy eating, exercise, and activities that help their mental health, we are likely to see the appeal of services that promote emotional release as a growing segment of this burgeoning industry.
What are your thoughts on public displays of emotion? Do you think there is scope for an emotional release industry? Tell us more in the comments.