Sunday, March 20, 2011

The need to express yourself

You always hear that you shouldn't keep your emotions "bottled up," that it's "bad for your health."  What you don't hear a lot about is what to do instead.  What do you do if you can't express your feelings in a given situation because it's not the right time or place?  What if you're so angry that expressing that anger might unleash a violent storm with negative consequences for yourself or the people around you?  What if leeting another person know how you feel would do more harm than good?

I am fully convinced that "bottling up" emotions is not healthy.  I believe that emotions usually -- but not always -- need to be expressed in order to keep them from hanging around only to reveal themselves at inappropriate times or in inappropriate ways.  If, however, it is not possible to express an emotion for whatever reason, at the very least it should be acknowledged.   Ignoring or suppressing emotions won't make them go away.  They will inevitably return, although they may manifest themselves in different ways (perhaps as an unexpected angry or violent outburst or maybe as physical pain such as headaches, ulcers, or stomach problems).  Acknowledging a feeling brings it into your conscious awareness.  Once it's there you can make a decision about what (if anything) to do with it.  If an emotion is not acknowledged it remains unconscious.  It is still there but you no longer have control over what it does.  (I think that one of the reasons people reach a point where they have no control over their emotions - or where their emotions are in control of them - is because they've suppressed, repressed, or otherwise kept their emotions from consciousness for so long that they've accumulated, grown, and joined forces until they've become a powerful and destructive force).

In terms of expressing emotion - while it may not be appropriate to express an emotion at a given time, in a given place, or to a given person, you can at least take a moment to recognize how you are feeling, choose to keep that feeling to yourself for the time being, and return to it later when you are able to express it.

Expression does not always have to be verbal, although verbally identifying an emotion has been shown to make that emotion more manageable (and sometimes less intense).  Art, music, or physical activity are also potential conduits for emotional release.  Still, humans are social creatures by nature; perhaps that is why - at least in terms of the most intense or troubling emotional experiences - we seem to benefit most from finding someone supportive to share them with.  Studies have shown that after a distressing experience people tend to seek out others to share their emotions with.  People with diagnosable depression, however, do not show this tendency.  This suggests that not sharing such emotions with others contributes to, exacerbates, or serves to maintain depressive symptoms.  In addition, avoiding emotions related to a distressing experience or experiences is a factor that has been shown to contribute to both the development and the maintenance of symptoms of PTSD and other anxiety disorders.

I realize that I have repeatedly warned of the perils of emotional avoidance.  Still, I don't think it's possible to over-emphasize this.  If we are to lead a psychologically healthy and emotionally fulfilling life we have to find ways of expressing - and sharing - our feelings.  This will probably be uncomfortable at times but in life what is good for us is not always comfortable.  Maybe we don't want to get immunizations because we don't like needles but we do it because it prevents us from getting life-threatening diseases.  We might not enjoy a colonoscopy but at age 50 we go get one because it could prevent us from getting colon cancer.  And women - we may not enjoy our yearly female exam but we get it done because we want to make sure we stay healthy.  When you look at it this way there is absolutely no reason not to engage in healthy emotional expression.  Yes, it may be uncomfortable to share you feelings at times; however, rarely is it as bad as getting a colonoscopy.  Keep that in mind next time you have the urge to bottle up your emotions.

5 comments:

  1. wow. this has been really helpful. i sometimes try to contain my emotions. but i let them all out eventually in the company of friends or family. sometimes i even just blog about it. hehe. i think i still have some emotions unsaid and kept inside. i'll have to open them up eventually. thanks for this.

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  2. I am a firm believer in expressing how I feel - through art, writing, movement... in as many forms as there are hours in the day! How interesting to discover this post as I just finished a painting on this theme! Keep up the good writing!

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  4. This is totally true, That is why I decided to express my self here.

    First of all let me apologize in advance since my english may not be 100% :).

    I'm from Dominican Republic, a beautiful caribbean country where I have a loooooot of friends and of course family, I'm very social person who always used to be around people sharing and having fun, they made me feel very important and it was a great feeling.

    In november 2014 I decided to move to NYC to expand my business and started a new lonely life, something I'm not use to and it is very frustrating because as a person I have so much to give, to share, to love and so much more and I feel so limited to express my self, I feel so lonely and bored every day, I just wake up, go to work and go back home to repeat same day next day and it is not fun and it is really so crazy because when my family and friends from my country calls me, they all tells me that they are so proud of me, that they wish to be like me and they would like to be a decisive person as I am because I really have accomplish most of my goals and to come here and start a new successful business was on my goals list. So I'm following my goals path in order to be free financially speaking. I think this is the price I have to pay in order to achieve this specific goal and I hope to get there soon lol.

    So I realize that in order to expand my business I was sacrificing all the things that really make me happy. I'm not saying I'm not happy but it has been very hard to adapt to a different lifestyle.

    Something I want you to know is my personality, I never quit, I am very positive, I go after my goals, I have strong decisions, I'm very social person, honest and like to express my feelings, very romantic. My personality has helped me to overcome my changes thru life, to overcome my defeats and obstacles.

    But let me go back to time a little bit...

    In the year 2000 I fall in love with a person that I meet in my country but she was from here, I still remember how she kissed me and how wonderful it was, it was like flying for the first time, like winning the lottery, it felt so great because I really really liked her. Then she came back to the US and I did not saw her again. In 2002 I came to NY for a couple of weeks and we saw each other and it was so beautiful that words can't express, I felt the same way I did back in 2000 so then I came back to my country and after that I couldn't get in contact with her for reasons I can't remember but I know I tried and again, I never saw her again for a while.

    To make the long story short, last Monday we got together and went to a Brooklyn coffee shop and for the first time in a decade we catch up a little bit and I felt that all my feelings for her came back, I felt like a teenager falling in love again, a feeling that has been hiding on my heart for so long that I did not even know it exists.

    My experience in life has always show me a way of hope and that everything is possible, maybe she's not my soulmate, maybe she is not what the future is holding for me or maybe she doesn't feel the same way I feel but for some reason destiny has unite our paths together again and I believe on the signs that life is giving me. I will follow my instincts and my heart.

    Feels good to express yourself. Try it...

    Guillermo Caba
    From New York City.

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  5. Deputy Michael Henretta Brightwell III of Botetourt County Sheriff's Office, VA
    This coward should be charged with forceful sodomy and rape, instead he is secured by his lieutenant daddy Michael Brightwell of Salem PD, VA, lawyers, and other cops who are too brainless and lazy to do their jobs. PsychoPathological filthy liars who are worse than f***ing Ted Bundy, Bobby Joe Long, Gary Heidnik, Gary Ridgway, BTK, and f***ing John Wayne Gacy. They will all share the same hell. You cannot lie to god, the Lord knows and sees the truth behind your masks and uniforms.
    You do the right thing, you are ignored and called a trashy liar; and you do the wrong thing, you're still ignored, trashy liar, and more. What chance do I have if they all went to the same f***ing high school, church or whatever. John Wayne Gacy used to go to church. That drunk should be punished for his crimes, but no, they'll wait for actual evidence and better if there is a dead body to work with. Police officers get special treatments and are never held accountable for any harm they cause they always have each others back serve and protect each other only, is it the HS diploma? Drunkness? Coco dealing and abuse? Fatness? The constant eating of doughnuts? Beating up certain individuals for no reason? Their inability to use their brains? What is it?

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