So many of us, including myself were taught that it isn’t good to express our feelings, more specifically, negative feelings. Why? Because it wasn’t “nice” to make anyone else feel uncomfortable or worried. So we learned to keep “bad news,” secrets, anger, frustration and whole host of other “negative” thoughts, feelings and emotions to ourselves. This pattern, if established early in life, can become a habituated means of interacting with others. We usually don’t realize that anything is wrong with this form of functioning until we begin to move beyond our immediate family unit and out into the world of relationships.
So then what happens?
As we begin to form more intimate relationships we naturally shy away from expressing anything that could be perceived as potentially negative or “bad” out of fear that we are going to hurt the other person’s feelings. This can lead to a host of unhealthy behaviors such as; withdrawing/shutting down, telling white lies, pretending everything is alright and pushing people away.
How Do I Change These Patterns?
First of all, it’s essential to realize that how someone chooses to react to your disclosures and feelings is their responsibility. If your significant other is going to become angry, hysterical or inconsolable because you just told him/her that you lost your job, then that reaction is theirs and theirs alone.
Secondly, who are we to determine what someone can or cannot handle? Yes, losing one’s job is potentially devastating information, but it is the information that is potentially upsetting, not you. How many times have you made yourself anxious about telling someone bad news only to discover that their reaction was supportive and understanding? You misidentified the reaction, wasted a tremendous amount of energy on being afraid and possibly delayed desperately needed support.
Lastly, if you are in a relationship with someone who chooses to react to your feelings in a hurtful or irrational manner, then it is probably recommended that you both seek couples counseling to explore and resolve some deeper communication issues.
Learning to express your feelings can seem uncomfortable and frightening, but the end result is the realization that your feelings matter. The liberation that comes from knowing that you don’t control how other people are “made” to feel by your expression of honest words and feelings is worth the work and effort.