Catching Feelings for South Africa

Carly

I just want to say a little something about the rugby world cup and its effect on South Africa this past week.

Whether or not you’re a sports fan, I am sure that you have been aware of the overwhelming gees that has captured our nation in anticipation of, during, and after our victorious final against England on Saturday.

I am here to talk about that emotion.

As a psychologist, I talk about feelings a lot. Becoming aware of and able to express your emotions is one of the most basic tasks of therapy.

I think we often try to suppress our feelings because we think this will make us seem more ‘in control’ and there is huge cultural, familial and individual pressure to be restrained, especially in Anglo and Western cultural groups.

Let me tell you something about South Africans though, we like to let it all hang out. And I love that about us.

When I lived in Germany I became acutely aware of how emotionless and cold Germans are in comparison to South Africans. South Africans, on the contrary, could be accused of being over-sharers because we tend to talk openly to people who we’ve just met and are happy to get right to the personal stuff straight away. I remember being on a flight back home and overhearing perfect strangers standing outside the toilet talking to each other about their recent divorce and their relationships with their kids etc.

I have recently been charged with strong emotions of a different kind while our country angrily confronted gender-based violence.

On Saturday, however, I cheered and cried along with many other South Africans while a beautiful black man held a trophy on behalf of our nation in an historic moment that we all knew meant more than winning a game of rugby.

You see, being South African has always come with complex and complicated feelings. We have a very dark history and unless you are burying your head in the sand it is apparent that Apartheid and its divisive, racist laws had far reaching consequences for the people of South Africa. We are still reeling from the effects of Apartheid and colonialism but more recently we have also had to cope with political uncertainty, corruption, escalating crime rates and economic collapse. Times are tough here and there are so many forces that impede a sense of harmony.

Yet give us half a chance – like when there is a sport that unites us in celebration – and we get emotional and mushy like you cannot believe. It seems to go beyond patriotism because our feelings of pride have more to do with a sense of hope and a belief in change. Most importantly we feel love. Love that crosses racial, cultural and economic divides. And this love was palpable over the weekend.

We are a nation that feels deeply. And I wonder if it is because of the deep scars that we wear on our collective sleeve that we have this capacity for depth and for meaning? Is it because we were taught to hate and had to fight back against a system of hate and separation, that we make a celebration out of loving and coming together in unity?

What I loved more than anything was seeing all these physically strong, traditionally masculine men showing genuine emotion and vulnerability. Below are some links to some clips that show our captain Siya Kolisi and coach Rassie Erasmus talking after the game. Please note the humility. It takes humility to be great leaders. Also please note the beautiful expression of genuine emotion. There is something so special about men who can openly cry and who show their feelings so genuinely. I do believe that we need to soak up these moments and use them as examples because they prove that our society is not entirely rotten. Long live great leadership. Long live deeply-felt and openly-expressed emotion. Long live South Africa.

Springboks’ victory driven by a strain of desire few others can comprehend

So please join us in celebrating by adding a comment to describe how this incredible achievement has made you feel. What emotions do you experience when you think about South Africa/your country and how can you relate to these images and words?

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