Andy Murray cried for the British nation this past Sunday. He lost in the finals at Wimbledon—on his home court. He could not hold back his emotions as he opened his post tournament comments with, “I’m getting closer.” Murray is ranked number 4 in the world of tennis and that is usually where he ends up in big tournaments—4th place. Amidst the rain, Sunday was a day for Andy Murray to shine. And he did, through sharing his defeat and allowing Britain to cry for and with him.
The Kleenex Corporation has spent a good deal of time and money in England over the past decade hiring researchers to evaluate the state of emotions in Britain. If you won’t cry tissue sales suffer. Prestigious research firms such as the Social Issues Research Center contextualize British emotional restraint by affirming that, “How we express our emotions is very much a matter of experience and the prevailing rules of ‘social reality’ which differ from culture to culture.” The British are not known for emoting.
Most striking in the SIRC’s 22 page report titled: Britain: A Nation of Emotion? is a quote that summarized an unexpected finding—not just grief or other negative emotions are ‘bottled up’ in Britain–the cap is tightly placed on all emotion.
“I’d handed in the dissertation, done the exams, everything was finished, and I woke up in bed one morning and I said “Oh God, I feel really strange” and my husband said “What do you mean”, and I said “I feel really odd, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’t describe how I feel…I, oh shit, I know what it is, I’m happy!”
It is always quite a bit easier to see the masks that others (individuals or nations) wear and more challenging to recognize our own. When a man, a tennis gladiator such as Andy Murray can’t hold back his tears it brings out both grief and happiness and makes everyone, including Andy, feel a bit less alone.
I did not know the significance of Andy’s hometown of Dunblane. In 1996, when Andy was in grade school a man walked in one day to the kindergarten and began shooting. Sixteen died that day. All the children that died were less than five years old. Andy knew the man who turned murderer, as did most of the children at Dunblane Elementary. Andy, along with many of his fellow classmates, hid in his classroom. Traumas such as the one Andy survived bury emotions deep. He has never spoken publicly about what happened that day.
This past Sunday he finally spoke—“I’m getting closer” he said. So are we all.