“That was one of the saddest things about people–their most important thoughts and feelings often went unspoken and barely understood,” wrote Australian author Alexandra Adornetto.
It’s a common problem. There are several reasons people suppress their feelings. Maybe they grew up in a family that has trouble talking about their emotions. Or they’re afraid to say something that may cause an argument. Some people use the “silent treatment” assuming that those close to them should instinctively know how they feel.
Then there’s the perfectionists that don’t want to admit they have feelings they consider “bad” or “weak” such as depression, anger, shame, anxiety, jealousy, or guilt. Those who have self-esteem issues may feel like they don’t have the right to express their emotions and fear ridicule or rejection. Instead, they simply try to please people and meet their expectations.
Whatever the reason, constantly holding in our emotions is a recipe for disaster. If we’re not in touch with our feelings and never learn to properly express them, those emotions can overpower and overwhelm us leading to more anxiety and depression. It can even cause physical problems like headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure, or cardiac problems.
So what can you do to become better at expressing your feelings? Here are a few tips:
Understand Your Feelings
Do not label your feelings as right or wrong or judge yourself harshly because you have negative emotions. Everyone is imperfect. Feelings simply exist and everyone is entitled to have them. It’s also important to understand that although feelings cannot be controlled, they can be managed. For example, if you are feeling stressed or anxious, simple relaxation exercises may be helpful. A quick jog around the block may help dispel angry or irritable feelings. A good cry can help relieve sadness.
Share Your Feelings
Get in the habit of talking to someone you trust about your emotions. This can be your spouse, a close friend, a minister, a counselor, or a family member. Make sure you choose someone who is a good listener, can offer you emotional support, and encourages you to freely express your emotions without interrupting or judging you. You’ll immediately feel relief. A word of caution: Don’t get mad if others don’t feel the exact same way you. Also avoid re-hashing an upsetting event or bad situation over and over again which will only keep negative feelings alive.
Write Down Your Feelings
Okay, I’m a natural born writer and a big believer that keeping a journal to vent your feelings is a great way to express your emotions. In fact, I wrote a three-part series on the benefits of keeping a journal along with different methods and inspirations to keep you going. If you’re the creative type, try expressing your emotions in a poem or a song. Writing down your feelings is a wonderful outlet and a great way to learn more about your emotions.
Learn How to Express Anger Properly
Yes, it’s good to express your feelings, but be sure and “let it out” in a positive and healthy way. For example, if you are feeling angry with your spouse, start sentences with “I feel ________when ________” instead of an accusing, “You always…” Be assertive without being aggressive. When you calmly express your emotions and needs, you are more likely to get the desired results.
Use the above tips to learn to identify and express your feelings in a healthy way. And don’t forget to give voice to positive feelings such as happiness and gratitude as well!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net