Not everyone finds it easy to talk about how they feel.
If you can relate, you might find it quite uncomfortable listening to other people talk about their feelings. Maybe you wonder why they’re being so sensitive or intense, and can’t just “get on with it”. You do a good enough job at keeping them down – so why can’t they?
Perhaps you’ve wondered whether you’re just “one of those people” who doesn’t have many feelings.
But the truth is: we all have feelings. Our emotions are with us constantly. They compel us to take action, influence our choices and enable us to form meaningful connections with the people around us.
The tendency to invalidate and suppress our feelings has become part of our culture. For many of us, it’s how we’ve been taught to behave.
If you feel very out of touch with your emotions this can often be traced back to childhood.
How did your parents (or caregivers) respond when you were upset? Did you feel like you could talk to them when you were angry or you felt misunderstood?
The chances are, if we struggle to talk about our feelings as adults it’s because we were never provided the space to do so as children. And this normally happens because the people we grew up around also didn’t know how to talk about their feelings.
The problem is bottling up our emotions isn’t a natural or healthy state to be in. In fact, overtime it can become toxic.
Repressed emotions don’t just disappear. They build up quietly in the background… And soon enough, they start shouting at us – until we’re forced to take notice.
Let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important to express our emotions.
Why do I need to talk about how I feel?
Feelings are important indicators
Being in touch with our emotions (AKA emotional intelligence) is important because our feelings are important indicators for what’s happening in life.
Emotions tell us exactly what we need to hear (even if sometimes it’s not what we necessarily want to hear). All our feelings are valid – and that includes the difficult ones.
Listening to them – and processing them – allows us to correct our behaviour and take a course of action that most benefits us.
When we bottle them up they only come back stronger – with potentially worse consequences
You can think of it like putting a lid on a boiling pan… When we put the lid on our feelings, in time they’re going to boil over.
If you’ve spent a lot of time trying to suppress your feelings, you might find that it feels very overwhelming when you actually do express them. Maybe you’re having an argument with your partner and you explode out of nowhere or you snap at your colleague for something small.
In the short-term, suppressing our feelings might mean overreacting in situations. In the long-term, it can have much more serious consequences – leading to issues like depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
Talking about your feelings lifts a weight from your shoulders
We might try all kinds of strategies to try and suppress our emotions – numbing ourselves with alcohol and drugs, keeping ourselves so busy we don’t have time to think or process our thoughts and feelings… But again, none of these work in the long-term.
When we process and express how we feel in the moment, we’re free, light and easy – able to experience life in the present. By letting the tears out we allow space for positive thoughts to take their place.
“A problem shared is a problem halved”
As human beings, we need connection. We’re social creatures, and we all need support. Very often just saying something out loud to another person can offer a huge release. You’re not expected (or designed) to be battling everything out alone.
You own your feelings instead of them owning you
When we’re out of touch with our feelings, we allow them to rule over us. How we feel impacts how we behave. If we don’t have the awareness over how we’re feeling, our emotions can end up influencing our decisions without us even realising it. By acknowledging and validating our feelings, we allow the space to process them so that we can move forward in the way that most benefits us.
Naming our emotions diffuses their charge
Our emotions are constantly changing. Even though we might feel a certain way one moment, it will never last forever. Putting a name to our emotions helps to bridge the gap between thoughts and feelings, moving “I am this” to “I am feeling this”. This realisation alone can offer a huge relief.
It enables you to form authentic connections
If we’re not in touch with our feelings, we’re going to find it a struggle to form close relationships. Maybe we avoid authentic connections because they feel scary or we form friendships and relationships that are “surface level” in order to feel safe. Communication is key to any relationship, and talking about your feelings is going to make you both a better person and partner.
How can therapy help?
If you’ve been bottling up your emotions for a long time the idea of talking about them might feel scary. Many people worry that once they start, they won’t be able to stop (which is never the case).
Therapy is a safe, non-judgemental space to start opening up. Your therapist will never push you to talk about anything you don’t want to talk about or rush the process in a way that overwhelms you. It will always be at your speed.
Talking about your feelings is freedom. Emotions need to be validated and processed, and you’re the only person who can start that process.
That’s not to say it’s all going to be plane-sailing – but in the long run it’s going to feel like a massive weight you didn’t even know you were carrying has been lifted.
As Rumi said,
“The cure for the pain is in the pain”.