Uncle: A century ago, 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.
Nephew: We should revive that custom.
Uncle: Then you will be pleased to know that remnants of that custom still exist. When you say to someone, ‘No comments are required from the peanut gallery, thank you!’ you are asking them to refrain from presenting their opinion.
Nephew: Sounds good. I’ll try that on you some time.
Uncle: No doubt you will. 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.’
Nephew: What are you trying to say?
Uncle: One of our unceasing jobs in life is to sort the good advice we receive from the bad. But if the advice is about our emotions, be extra cautious. A companion sitting in the peanut gallery might tell us: ‘Gosh, you must be livid!’ or, ‘I bet you’re devastated.’ However, it’s not our companion’s job to decide what we are feeling; that’s our job. If someone says to you, ‘Oh, you must be feeling angry about that!’ stop and think. Work out what you are actually feeling and tell them. ‘No, I feel dismayed, and apprehensive.’
Nephew: What if the person is right? What if I am angry?
Uncle: If you are feeling angry, find the right word for that anger. Are you vexed? Miffed? Annoyed? Use the word you provide, not their word. 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.
Nephew: Why are we doing this?
Uncle: The more accurate our understanding is of what we are feeling, the easier it is to deal with that feeling, and the more grounded we 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.
Nephew: You make life complicated? You know that, don’t you?
Uncle: And, 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!’ decide for yourself how bad it is! If they say, ‘This shouldn’t be hurting you so much,’ don’t listen to them. You decide how much it hurts, and say so. You don’t need comments from the peanut gallery.
Nephew: I don’t need comments from a peanut, either.
Uncle: You cheeky blight.