By Lori Hanson
Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? What a silly thing to write about. Well, not so fast! There are many people in this country and on this planet that don’t really know how to feel and express their emotions. Hence the onslaught of additions: drug abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders, cutters, gamblers, sex addicts and more. All situations fed by the simple fact that we don’t know how to deal with things that make us feel uncomfortable.
Ever hear the phrase “Children are to be seen and not heard,” when you were little? Ever hear someone tell a young boy not to cry? Were you ever told to “Suck it up” or “Get over it?” As youngsters we get many messages, not just from our parents, but from our teachers, relatives, people at church, anyone that seems to be in a position of authority and it has a big impact on how we process life.
Other people get trapped because they saw or experienced something so traumatic they have to shut down in order to deal with it. Sexual abuse, rape, torment, murder, mass killings. It’s part of the capacity to deal with the trauma—just blocking it out and being numb.
If you are fortunate to not have experienced anything traumatic and just weren’t encouraged to express yourself it is a skill that is worth developing for your own personal well-being and for the sake of developing healthy relationships personally and professionally.
Like any new or skill you want to develop, it takes practice. If you want to learn how to play the guitar what do you do? You watch other people to observe how they do it. Make mental notes on what you like and don’t like about how they do it. You hire a teacher or teach yourself and practice, practice, practice.
Learning how to express emotions can be a similar process. Here’s a few techniques to help you get started.
1. Evaluate what emotions you can express
Do you have a temper and lash out at people? In this case, you need to learn how to express your anger or disappointment in a calmer way that’s more productive.
Can you let people know when you’re happy? Is it easy to smile, jump up and down and be excited about something?
2. Make a list of emotions you would like to express
Frustration can be:
Happy can be:
3. Practice out loud
Take five minutes a day to practice expressing yourself. Create sentences and say them out loud so you get comfortable hearing yourself saying them.
“This really made me feel confident….about moving forward today.”
“I’m really curious to see…how this new project works out for us.”
“I’m hopeful that this time the outcome will be different.”
Then as you get a little practice with the positive emotions, follow them up with honesty about what is bothering you.
“I was really disappointed when I didn’t hear from you.”
“I’m sad that….”
“I’m a bit confused, I thought we agreed to…”
4. Look for situations where you can start to share your emotions honestly
Start small. Don’t attempt to make a broadway production out of your first attempt. Find situations where you can share the words you’ve practice above. The rewards you reap will make the investment of time a no brainer. As you communicate more honestly you’ll soon begin to receive more honest communication.
Practice, practice, practice and you’ll reach your destination.
If you need help building your confidence about communicating your emotions. Contact us