How to Talk About Your Feelings
Expressing Feelings Appropriately
What would 2022 be like for you if you could actually tell people how you feel? I’m not talking about popping off at them. I’m talking about actually getting your thoughts and feelings across without having to regret the way you do it. Many of us simply use this classic cycle: stuff it… eat it… stuff it some more… don’t cause trouble – BOOM!
Then, after a cool down period, return to the fakey chit-chat like nothing happened, and start a new cycle. Then there are those who have mastered the art of suppressing feelings and rarely, if ever, lose it. BUT, ask them about their migraines, their gastrointestinal troubles, their addictions, their panic attacks, their feelings of emptiness when they get quiet and still, etc.
Let’s try something different. First, know that a feeling isn’t good or bad; it’s just a fact, like having to use the restroom. During potty-training, most parents did a pretty good job of teaching us how to add some parameters to our “elimination” routine. But most of us didn’t get the same instruction regarding the expression of our hurt, anger and other disturbing feelings. We were told instead, in various ways, that it’s unacceptable to have or express these feelings; that they’re just hurtful and may make people “unfollow” you one day (no wonder we often settle for phony intimacy).
Of course, there are times when keeping a lid on is a good thing, as well as situations where a sudden unleashing of your emotion is necessary, like when you or another is in immediate danger. But stuffing feelings altogether is akin to avoiding the restroom when you need it, just as spewing “unfiltered” emotion is about as appropriate as soiling yourself. The middle ground is in not letting feelings accumulate.
Express, but be aware of your powerful non-verbal language (face, tone and posture). As for your verbal, identify how another’s behavior makes you feel. Then with your own style, use this formula: “When you… I feel… Could you…” Say your brother-in- law is a real piece-of-work who talks about himself a lot. Finally, you spew at him in front of friends and family out on the patio one day, “Hey Jeffrey… shut up! I know you’re the center of the universe and all, but from now on, could you just write it down?”
Sure, releasing all that feels really good in the moment, but there will probably be repercussions for a much longer period afterward. Instead, take a couple of deep belly breaths, then say something like, “Jeff, when you talk on about yourself without showing interest in others, I feel irritated. I’d appreciate it if you could pay more attention to this.”
Realness can be risky. Paired with respect, however, it becomes highly valued authenticity. As a bonus for those who bottle things up, it may also reduce the prescriptions needed for all your various ailments.
Written by Ted Crawford, LMFT
Pine Grove Clinical Therapist
About Ted Crawford, LMFT
Ted Crawford LMFT, provides psychotherapy for clients through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) of Forrest General Hospital and at the Gratitude and Pine Grove Outpatient Services (PGOS) programs of Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, He earned his undergraduate degree in Education in 1987 and his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy in1995 from The University of Southern Mississippi. Ted has also completed training in the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to address trauma issues. His background includes work as an educator prior to coming to Pine Grove. In addition to working at EAP, Gratitude and PGOS currently, Pine Grove has also benefitted from Ted’s work at the Child & Adolescent Day Treatment and Professional Enhancement Programs and on the inpatient adult psychiatric unit. He enjoys writing and has written numerous informative (and entertaining) articles on clinical topics in a format that is easily understood by both professionals and patients. Ted has been employed with Pine Grove since 1998 and working with the EAP since 2001.
About Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services
Located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services is one of the nation’s most comprehensive treatment campuses. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs treat gender specific substance abuse including specialized tracks for co-occurring eating disorders and trauma. Additionally, Pine Grove offers an Intensive Outpatient substance abuse healing program for adults and a separate treatment program specifically for those who are age 55 plus. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual addiction. Inpatient Services including an Adult Psychiatric Unit, along with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, and Outpatient Services are other components. Pine Grove is a division of Forrest Health, a partnership of healthcare organizations across South Mississippi, and the behavioral healthcare extension of Forrest General Hospital, a 547 bed, level II Regional Trauma Center. Established in 1984, Pine Grove has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for 37 years. For more information, please visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com and call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673).