I tried something new the last few weeks. I blurt out my feelings when they first arise. Instantly. I started by sharing them with my husband and kids. Now, I am expanding it to other close relationships. I ask them to do the same.
It changed my life. This is so good that I want to share it with everybody. It is like I found a treasure hidden in my backyard.
You start the sentence with ‘I feel…’ Next, you choose one of the four basic emotions: sad, mad, scared or happy. After research, I simplified it down to the smallest set of options. No need to be fancy here. These four emotions will have you covered.
After you state the emotion, you can explain the thought behind it. For example, you can say ‘I feel mad because I did not appreciate that joke.’
The key here is the timing. You state your emotions the moment you feel something happening within you. You take a few seconds to identify the feeling. And then you blurt it out. Straightaway.
What is the usual scenario in most households? Your partner says or does something that annoys you. For example, make an insensitive comment about your cooking.
You do not say anything at the moment. You are tempted to think more about what happened. To wait to find a good way to show how you feel. Maybe discuss it when the kids are asleep.
Or maybe you decide to say nothing at all. There are more important things to worry about. It is not worth rocking the boat. Or God forbid, have a fight. You are not into fights.
Sometimes you do not even notice that you feel angry or sad. A few hours later, you have forgotten the trigger, and you wonder why you are in a bad mood.
Please, just say something. The moment the feeling arises. It is as essential as if I told you that you need to put down a fire when you first see the smoke. Do not wait for it to become an inferno.
Why you should share your feelings immediately
- They are usually less intense than if you waited. Most times, it is what we tell ourselves about things that magnifies our emotions. If you get the feeling out quickly, you do not get yourself worked up with additional thoughts. A more manageable emotion is easier to work with. A lot of people tell you to wait when you feel angry, so you don’t do something you will regret later. All I am asking is for you to say to the other person that you feel angry. Why would you regret that? Feelings are not good or bad. Actions are.
- The other party understands you better. When you share an emotion linked to something that just happened, you do not waste time arguing about who did what. The situation is right there, in front of you. You do not get to accumulate anger or sadness and blow up with a minor incident. When we explode with repressed feelings, the receiving party is left confused. Wondering where did all this emotion come from. That is when usually conflict occurs.
- You give the other person an opportunity to clear a misunderstanding. I realized that half the times I got angry with my husband it was because of a misunderstanding. I interpreted what he said the wrong way. By sharing the emotion rather than ignoring it, I gave him the opportunity to explain.
- If you do not say anything, it is unlikely it will be fixed. You cannot expect your partner or your kids to read your mind. They cannot know that something bothers you unless you tell them how you feel. You may be surprised when they help fix the issue.
- You do not have to ‘fake it”. Thinking and feeling one way and behaving another is draining. Your authenticity and congruence are crucial for your mental and emotional health.
- You do not store the feelings in your body. Ignoring feelings does not make them go away. Quite the contrary. Repressed emotions are linkedto a variety of physical or psychological symptoms. These include a higher risk for asthma, high blood pressure, infectious diseases, anxiety, and depression.
- Your feelings become your friends. A lot of people think they are not supposed to have negative feelings. That they are a destructive force to be afraid of. By noticing and expressing negative feelings, you make them your friends. They will give you valuable information helping you make decisions. And, they will signal when you are off track.
- You begin to feel the opposite. You may be thinking that you do not want to be sad, angry or scared. Your goal is to get over those feelings. Why dwell on them or give them air time? Well, that’s the beauty of it. Recognizing and expressing the negative feelings is the best way I know to make them go away. Remember how better you feel after you talk to a friend? Psychologists back me up. Petruska Clarckson claimed that whatever is said fully and completely the opposite also begins to be true. In his paradoxical theory of change Arnold Beisser argued that to move from ‘A’ to ‘B’ you must fully engage with ‘A.’
- You create intimacy. Some people do not share their emotions because they are afraid of rejection. But, you can only build strong relationships by being honest, vulnerable and authentic. Since my husband and I started this practice, we uncovered many things about each other. I will give you an example. It was late in the evening, and my husband was telling me to go to sleep with intense voice. I asked him what he felt. After some exploration, he said that the emotion was fear. Fear that if I do not sleep early, I will be grumpy and complaining tomorrow. I had not realized how often I complained about my lack of sleep and how this affected him.
- Your loved ones will do the same. If you set an example by sharing your feelings, it will be easier for your loved ones to follow suit. By doing so, they will reap the same benefits. They will become healthier emotionally. Your relationship will become stronger. Start by asking them the question: “What are you feeling?’
The two mistakes people make when they express their feelings
- I feel that…When I started asking others about their feelings, I was surprised by their difficulty to answer. They would say things like ‘I feel that you are are slob’ or ‘I feel that you do not care.’ These are not emotions. In general, when you could introduce a ‘that’ after ‘I feel,’ it means you are sharing a thought and not a feeling. That is why I turned the question to multiple choice. Are you mad, sad, scared or happy?
- You make me feel…Nobody has the power to make you feel anything. Your feelings are yours to own. Also, if you blame others for your negative feelings, you will elicit defensiveness instead of understanding. That is not what you want.
‘We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.’ Anais Nin
I just invite you to try this. Do it for a week. Express your feelings. Straightaway. And come back here and tell me what happened.
You can download Caterina Kostoula’s free Balance & Self-Care toolkit to assess your self-care needs, identify your energy zappers, and create more space in your life.