I read this book years ago Conscious Femininity – Interviews with Marion Woodman and this passage stuck with me.
On how sentimentality robs us of our feeling:
Woodman: To me sentimentality is not genuine feeling. Sentimental people tend to ignore their own shadow, their own darkness. They cover up real suffering with self-pity, for example, and stultify their own growth. Or they may focus their energy on another person who is trying to deal with genuine feeling, perhaps genuine evil, and because they’re unable to face that in themselves they say, “Poor thing.” They take a condescending attitude toward people who are fighting for their lives trying to get to their integrity. Sentimental people refuse to suffer. Real anger or real grief are put into cotton wool that smothers any possibility of transformation because they cannot stand the fire, and real feeling is tempered in fire. Real feeling moves into the conflict and hold the opposition until the new is born. Sentimentality fears the heat of passion. It takes a holier-than-thou attitude and pretends it knows no evil, feels sorry for anyone trapped in compulsive behavior. Nazis were sentimental. Children are not.
Today, I’m being sentimental about my life and feeling sad for myself and at the same time taking pause for where I’ve been, what I’ve learned and where I’m going. In a way maybe it is not actual sentimentality, but a remembering, an honoring of days gone by. Not wishing them different, not passing them off, but feeling them the way they come through to me.
Sometimes, okay most times, when I hear a Christmas song, it brings a lump to my throat or I see a family in front of a Thanksgiving table, it turns me to tears. I used to push that aside and not deal with it at all, thinking it was because of the wonder of the season, the magic, the miracle of it all, but it’s not. It’s grief for what I missed. What I’ve lost – my mother, my father, my two brothers and all the other things – we all have things that make us sentimental.
So, while I’m feeling sad, I remind myself – I’m no “Poor thing.” I fought life for my integrity, my authenticity and I can be okay just grieving – what might take a thousand more days to grieve, but I know if I keep letting it come in, come through – things will change. I’ve seen it. Instead of avoiding what’s going on, I ask – what am I avoiding? Am I being sentimental or am I willing to really feel what’s going on? and then letting whatever that is in, without sentimentality, might change your life.