Are you afraid of expressing your feelings?
Perhaps it’s because you fear it will:
–> start a fight, or…
–> hurt someone’s feelings, or…
–> loose a relationship/ friendship/ job, or…
–> you get too angry and lose your composure, or…
–> you get teary-eyed so you hold back because you don’t want to appear weak.
And when you DO express them, you feel as though you’re NOT communicating effectively and you’re completely misunderstood!
This leaves you feeling frustrated on top of the feelings you were originally harbouring within…
Does any of this resonate with you?
Well, let’s look into this a little further.
Most of the time when we go to express our feelings we don’t even take the time to first and foremost own our emotions, let alone understand them. So when we do try to express our feelings – what we actually end up doing is assigning blaming and making the other person wrong. So what does this look like…?
Here’s scenario as an example:
Mary and Paul are a couple who live together and have three kids and a dog. Mary is always frustrated that Paul never consults her before making plans for the two of them or their family. It’s Friday afternoon and Mary gets a text from Paul saying…
Paul: “Hi babe, just an FYI we are going to the beach tomorrow after breakfast with Steve, his wife Jody, and their kids. The kiddos will have fun and we can do a picnic for lunch. So let’s remember to pick up the groceries after work tonight. “
Mary: “Are. You. KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!?!”
Paul: ” ..? `:-\ “
Mary: “Sarah has her dentist appointment and the twins have soccer. I thought we agreed to divide and conquer tomorrow after breakfast?!”
(here it comes… )
Mary: “You always do this!!! You always make plans with your family and your friends without FIRST consulting with ME. You are so absent-minded and careless when it comes to me and our family. You don’t even know what’s going on around the house… I manage everything!!! You don’t even bother to set reminders in your calendar on your phone so you can keep up with our family life and our family plans. You are always preoccupied with OTHER people’s lives and make plans according to THEIR schedule and availability. And you NEVER consult me and what I want or what we have going on. I’m SO ANGRY at you!”
Paul: says sarcastically “Wow. Tell me how you really feel Mary . Fine, I’ll cancel, but this is now the third time we are making plans with them and having to cancel. Why are you always in such a pissy mood? Can’t we enjoy our weekends?”
Mary: “What don’t you understand!?!? It’s not a plan until you run it by me first to confirm if we don’t have anything else booked. How can you make plans for the family without checking in with me FIRST..?!”
As you can probably tell, Mary is FURIOUS at Paul and BLAMING him! But how can Mary have communicated her feelings differently in this situation? This is obviously a chronic concern of hers which is why she has such a build-up of emotions.
Using the scenario above let’s…:
1) understand the root of the emotion AND
2) how to communicate our feelings by owning our emotions without making the other person wrong.
1) Understanding the Root of the Emotion
When you were a child you didn’t articulate your emotions the way you do as an adult using so many words to express your feeling state. As a child it was far more simple, you were either feeling: 1) sad, 2) happy, 3) surprised, 4) fearful, 5) anger, or 6) disgust. And when you expressed them it was mostly through your actions: crying, stomping feet, screaming, laughing from the pit of your stomach, etc. It’s likely that when you expressed the icky emotions that you might have been told to stop crying, stop feeling scared for no reason, stop crying all the time, etc…
As you grew up you developed a more extensive vocabulary to express them in words rather than through your actions. And you probably developed an ickiness towards your icky feelings rather than embracing them. that’s fairly normal and common because you are only going by what you know based on how others responded to you during your formative years.
Your emotions are much like peeling an onion. Why an onion?
The further out you get from the core emotions the more loaded those emotions are. Emotions layer up when they are compounded because haven’t been expressed and released. We MUST release them, the good and the icky feelings.
So what was Mary’s core feeling? She was MAD! It was easy to see that she had compounded emotions leaving her feeling frustrated, furious, and irritated with Paul for not consulting her everytime he made plans for them.
It might have made Mary feel mad at Paul the first handful of times at the beginning of the relationship when Paul made plans without consulting Mary. Maybe she expressed her feelings or maybe not. If she did express it, it was likely a less loaded reaction than the example above. She might have said something like: “you never asked me and you don’t even take me into consideration when you make plans for us.”
When we blame someone or accuse them of something, immediately their guards will go up like walls all around them. They can’t AND won’t let in your words, because they’re in a defensive mode. It’s a natural response.
So Paul continues the behaviour because he hasn’t registered that what he’s doing is causing Mary to be mad and hurt. He just hears her accusing him and thinks she’s just having a bad day and dismisses what she’s trying to communicate.
Over time, Mary’s patience starts to ware out and the layers keep building on her emotions and it causes them to have a dysfunctional relationship with communication breakdown.
2) Own Your Feelings and Express Them Accordingly
Absolutely no one can make you feel something you don’t want to feel.
If someone loves you, but you don’t love them back – can they force you to love them? Nope. Even if they are a wonderful person, love is a feeling that is tied to each person’s own heart.
If someone wants you to eat meat, but you’re a vegetarian. Can they force you or entice you to try a piece of a juicy steak? Nope. Even if the food smells good, you don’t eat meat because it goes against your beliefs and you don’t see food on the plate, you see a poor little animal.
One more example…
If your at the top of a tower (like the CN Tower or the Calgary Tower, etc) and a portion of the floor is all glass so you can see right through the floor and you see the street below… all the cars and people are just tiny specs because you are way high up in this tower. Can someone make you walk on that glass floor if you have a genuine fear of heights? Nope. Your flight response is kicking in at that moment and no amount of convincing is going to get you on that glass floor.
Why is that…?
Because one of the rules of the mind is that it always favors emotion over logic.
All throughout our day, we th