Expressing Our True Feelings

As a child, were you encouraged or even allowed to express anger, fear and other natural emotions? Or maybe you identify with being raised in a home where you were told to "grow up" and keep your feelings to yourself? If so, after a lifetime of being made to suppress these feelings, the inability to identify them may manifest in harmful ways. Despite what you may have learned, feelings are neutral with no positive or negative values attached. We frequently attach judgment, though. We might say that feelings such as anger or fear are “bad” but that calm and fearless are “good,” but I can think of a number of circumstances, off the top of my head, where the opposite could be true. There is no well-researched reason to feel guilty or ashamed about experiencing feelings, and passing judgment on yourself (or your partner) for having particular feelings may have the effect of pouring fuel onto a fire. And feeling every feeling helps us learn so much more about ourselves, whether comfortable or not. When we know more about ourselves, we are able to go into more vulnerable places and connect more deeply with our partners. Acting-out is what takes place when we don’t know a lot about ourselves. Remember that it takes a lot of time and effort to push comfort zones, and to create new habits. These five tips can help you regain the ability to express your true feelings. 1. Verbalize Your Feelings Talking about your feelings with a trusted, non-judgmental person can get your feelings out into the open and reduces their power over you. You can also understand your feelings more readily the more often you process them. They become more and more familiar. But make sure the listening ear is non-judgmental (see above re: judgment). 2. Write Your Feelings Journaling is a popular and effective tool for expressing your feelings. Use a stream-of-consciousness style to record your thoughts as they occur, and again leave out the judgment, critique, and censorship. But, if you do find judgment entering into the process, make note of that too, because all of it is happening for you, and our goal is to welcome “all of it.” After a while, you'll have documentation you can review to see if you find any patterns or connections. 3. Relax Your Body If you consider what a feeling is, we feel with our body. The limbic and autonomic nervous systems govern feelings and create a range of physiological responses including perspiration and increased heart rate. When you relax your body, you can go deeper into what you are experiencing. If you are feeling tension and tightness everywhere, it is as if you are trying to navigate in a confined space. It may be exactly all that you are experiencing, but if there is more to it, it will be hard to uncover those feelings without relaxing a bit first. 4. Cry Crying is not a sign of weakness. It is a way to release sadness that may weigh you down. It might not be sadness that you are experiencing when you cry, either. A famous psychotherapist, Irvin Yalom, will encourage the question, “if your tears could speak, what would they be saying right now?” 5. Release Anger When anger is allowed to fester, it leads to acting-out behavior, and generally has the effect of pushing our partner. Anger is a “tip of the iceberg” emotion, meaning that it is often only what we can see above the surface, but underneath is the rest of the iceberg, what we can’t see, and deeper emotions that lead to that anger (for example, loneliness, hopelessness, etc.) We want to try to stay under the surface to understand what it is we are truly feeling, and in so doing we can connect at a level that can invite our partner in.