In the 1800s theatre audiences were noisy. If the entertainment was deemed poor the patrons would express their displeasure by heckling, or by throwing peanuts at the actors. The biggest nuisances were the less sophisticated patrons sitting in the cheap seats in the upper balcony. That section became known as the peanut gallery.
Today, someone who needs to refrain from presenting ‘unsophisticated’ (stupid) advice might be told, ‘No comments are required from the peanut gallery, thank you!’
People like to give advice, but often the advice is from patrons sitting in the peanut gallery, and it’s not worth much.
‘That’s my advice, but I wouldn’t take it.’
Dyon Balding, nephew.
One of our unceasing jobs in life is to distinguish between the good advice we receive and the bad. However, we should avoid taking advice about our emotions. A friend sitting in the peanut gallery might tell us: ‘Gosh, you must be livid!’ Or,‘I bet you’re devastated.’
It’s not our companion’s job to decide what we are feeling, it’s our job. If someone says to you, ‘Oh, you must be feeling angry about that!’ stop and think. Work out what you are feeling and tell them. ‘No, I feel dismayed, and apprehensive.’
If the person is correct and you are feeling angry, find the right word for that anger. Are you vexed? Miffed? Annoyed? Use the word you provide, not theirs. You can even add accompanying emotions: ‘I’m frustrated too.’
That way, we get a far clearer picture of what is going on inside us.
As well as telling us what we are feeling, the people sitting in the peanut gallery might also tell us what we should be feeling. Again, don’t allow it. If a well-meaning soul tells you:
‘Come on, it’s not that bad!’ tell them you can decide for yourself how bad it is!
‘This shouldn’t be hurting you so much.’ The fact is, it does hurt. Say so.
‘You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.’ That’s for you to decide, not them.
‘It’s not like it is a real problem.’ Let the person know that minimising what you are feeling is not helpful.
The more accurate our understanding of what we are feeling is, the easier it is to deal with that feeling and the more grounded we will feel. But if we listen to our friends in the peanut gallery it becomes harder to get that accurate understanding.
Besides, when you decide what you are feeling, and no one else, you become the authority on you. Which is how it should be.
The same goes for us. Let’s avoid telling someone what feelings they might having, such as:
‘You should be grateful that —’
‘I bet you’re feeling really —’
‘You shouldn’t feel that way.’
‘You have to be pleased with that!’
If you’re a parent reading this, assist children to find the right word without telling them what they’re feeling by asking them:
‘Is it possible that you feel frustrated because the dog keeps bowling you over?’
‘Do you feel irritated because you can’t find any Easter eggs?’
The children can decide for themselves whether or not the words apply.
In short, let’s not let ourselves be told what we are feeling. Let’s ignore the peanut gallery and work it out for ourselves.