How to Share Your Feelings

Things that makes most people clam up.
We all have feelings, so why can it be so hard to express them?

Feelings have been on my mind lately.
Over the last couple weeks I've been scared, surprised, happy, sad, hurt, bothered, a bit jealous, calm, joyful, peaceful, and probably more in between. Luckily, my husband is a fantastic listener, and I can bounce everything off him. Talking to him about my feelings helps me find a good neutral again. But there are other people that I also need to communicate with in order to resolve hurt feelings - aka, the people related to the hurt. To me, that's usually the scary part. As a counselor, I see my clients often struggle to share their concerns with others too. Pent up feelings either explode later at an inopportune time, or they fester. Neither option is the healthiest route to take.

Sometimes hurt feelings simply go away, but those seem to be the situations with strangers or less important people. Hurts related to friends, co-workers, or family members tend to stick around for awhile, unless they are dealt with in a positive way.

(This doesn't work if the other person is not listening, is disrespectful, or if people are riled up in emotion.) 

The first step: to sharing feelings is to take the time to determine where your feeling came from. What triggered you? Ponder on why that actually hurt you. What is really bothering you deep down? Peel back a few layers, and get to the route of your issue.

For example, last year my parents came to visit. We took a road trip to San Antonio, and everyone was inside my car. Even though my father offered to use his GPS to provide directions, I declined. I had driven to the Alamo enough times before, I didn't want directions. Well, of course I made a wrong turn, and then another wrong turn. Then again on the way home I got on the wrong access road, and we ended up in a parking lot. I was lost. Dad's GPS guided us to a side road through a subdivision that got us back on track. I was so frustrated though! Later, after some pondering, I realized I was upset because I had looked incompetent in front of my parents. I didn't want to look bad to them.

First: I took some time to think about why I was frustrated.
Second: I realized I wasn't mad, I was embarrassed.
Third: I talked to my Mom about why I felt embarrassed.
Fourth: I felt better. I felt calm again.

Feelings are not bad. It's what you do with those feelings that gets you into trouble or not.

If you feel angry, and you choose to hit a brick wall, you'll feel the consequences in your hand. If you choose to yell at someone, you'll feel some relationship consequences. If you choose to punch a pillow, you won't have the physical pain, but the emotional pain might linger. Therefore, choose to ponder. Think about what's happening inside your brain. (Don't dwell on other people; that won't improve your mood.) Do some detective work in your own mind and heart. Then, act in a healthy way to resolve the hurt.

What's one healthy way to resolve pain?
Talking to the other person related to the pain.

Yep. That means discussing the situation with your mother-in-law, your neighbor, or your co-worker. That means communicating with your sister, your aunt, or your fellow church member.

Notice that I used the word discuss in the above sentence. A discussion means that there is both listening and speaking going on. That means you need to talk and listen to the other person! When enough time has passed for both people to be cool-headed, you need to talk. Send him or her a text message or call them on the phone. Schedule a visit to the park or meetup for ice cream. The important part is that you get your true feelings out of your mouth - and that you don't blame the other person for your feelings.

Simply tell the other person, in a calm voice:
"I was a bit hurt when you forgot to invite my children to your group play date. Can we attend the next get-together?"

"I'm not sure what I did to make you angry, but I'm sorry that I offended you. I feel scared that our friendship might be affected. I do value your friendship. Can you help me understand what happened?"

"I feel trapped against the wall when you say that. I have no recourse, and that bugs me. Can we figure out a better way to solve this problem?"

Once you let your feeling out, you need to stay calm, and listen to the other person. Their answer may surprise you! Maybe their offensive action was accidental, or you misjudged them, or you heard wrong, and there is no ill-will meant to you. Maybe you really hurt them too, and you both have some changes to make. Just listen to them. Remember that this should not be a heated conversation. This is supposed to be a calm, humble conversation, so if people are angry or yelling, then stop. Take a break. And try again later. 

Finally, work together to solve the problem. There is always a solution.

So, if you are feeling down, figure out the source of your feeling pain, and then act to improve it! Talk to the necessary person. Make amends. Apologize. Listen. And enjoy the peaceful freedom that comes from letting go of your emotional burden.

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