By Alana Gregg, MS
The chaos of the world right now is causing so many emotions. In these moments, it’s important to think about who you talk to when you are hurting or upset. I can’t tell you how many clients I have had that look at me like I have five heads when I ask them if they talk to someone when they are struggling.
There are lots of things that keep us from sharing how we feel with others. Fear of how we will be perceived, fear of their response, fear of being vulnerable. I have had many clients say “I don’t want to be a burden”, or “what if they think I’m crazy?” These are very real fears. Sharing how you are feeling with someone is always a risk.
This fear can cause really unpleasant physical symptoms in the moment when it’s time to decide whether or not to share. Symptoms like your heart beating faster, nausea, difficulty breathing, tension, and sweating can take over our body. These feelings are triggered by our fight or flight response that the brain sends to protect us from danger.
At that moment, you typically have 3 choices when you are responding to someone:
Option 1: You can choose to pretend like everything is fine and avoid the discomfort.
Option 2: You can pick a fight about something else and deflect your feelings (most likely pushing your loved one further away).
Option 3: You can share honestly about what you are feeling.
7 reasons why sharing how you feel with others will benefit you:
1. You can’t carry it alone: There are many things in this world that are way too heavy to carry alone. The Bible tells us to carry each other’s burdens. This does not mean taking responsibility for other people’s choices and growth, but it does mean sharing the heaviness of our pain with someone so we are not alone. When you are afraid to be a burden, remember if you share your pain with someone and they share theirs with you, then the weight you are carrying is the same.
2. It will give you a release: Emotions are like a volcano. The more they stay bottled up, the more likely they are to explode. Feelings do not just go away if we ignore them. They just stay dormant until they erupt at an inopportune time.
3. You will be less likely to experience mental health issues: Holding onto pain can create a lot of different problems mentally and emotionally (like anxiety and depression). If avoided for too long, it can even cause physical symptoms like GI issues or chronic headaches.
4. It helps you sort through your thoughts: When thoughts are left swirling around in your head they are bound to get bigger and take hold. Those worst case scenarios feel so real when they are left unchecked. But when we say them out loud to someone we not only hear them for what they are but we get the added benefit of hearing someone else’s thoughts which helps to put things in perspective.
5. It helps others understand you better: Sharing how you feel builds trust with others and creates intimacy. Relationships grow when they have been able to work through conflict and experience the safety of having someone soothe their insecurities and validate their pain. It also allows them to know how to help you or pray for you.
6. It makes you an example to others: You can demonstrate to your kids (or to people that look up to you) how to express feelings in a healthy way. If they never see you sad or upset, then when they feel those things they will not know what to do with them.
7. Sharing decreases shame: Shame thrives in isolation and darkness. When we share how we feel, we bring it into the light which takes away its power.
I also hear many people say “It won’t change anything.” Sharing how you feel might not change your circumstances but it will change you. Giving in to protecting yourself will not serve you in the long run. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are opening the door to receiving the love and care that we are really longing for.
When do we need help?
You may have tried to share how you felt with someone before and they didn’t respond well. Opening back up again can be really difficult. Maybe you need to unlearn unhealthy messages you were taught about how to deal with emotions because your family growing up left you with a poor example. Maybe you are regularly being criticized or gaslit by someone close to you and sharing how you feel is no longer safe. The counselors at Lime Tree Counseling offer help and support for those who are struggling. We provide grief counseling, trauma therapy, and anxiety counseling. Reach out today if you are interested in improving your mental and emotional health!