Sharing Emotions Wisely
Self-compassion is one of our highest callings, and emotion one of our most valuable gifts. Why, then, do the two often collide? Ignorance and fear, most likely. In the grand scheme of our development, only recently has the mental health community encouraged gently facing feelings or viewed self-compassion as an attribute rather than a selfish indulgence. We are still in the process of integrating the “new” information into the deep recesses of our well-trained, ignore-feelings/think-of-self-last brains.
The intensity of emotion also scares us. We ignore and repress emotion for fear it will overwhelm and defeat us. One of my most important tasks as a hospice worker was to help people face their powerful feelings of grief and, sometimes, regret and be there for them when they did. Even Loretta, who collapsed into an emotional abyss for two weeks, told me later that her time “in the pit” was good, a crash course in empathy and understanding. The outpouring of love and nurturing she received during her experience facilitated her healing. Friends housed, fed, and kept her safe. Once or twice they brought her to my office, where she sat wrapped in a blanket quietly sobbing or just being. I hadn’t known her before grief knocked her down, but I respected her friends’ assessment of her innate strength and their belief she’d be okay. As a hospice worker herself, she now passes on the love she experienced and the empathy she learned.
With good reason, we also fear what will happen if we share our deepest feelings with those we love. In a few cases, our concerns are wise. Some people are not able to deal with raw, honest emotion and may run away when faced with yours. While that can definitely feel like a personal rejection, it’s really about them, not you. If you have explained what you need from them while sharing and they still downplay your feelings, tune out, try to fix you, shame you, or suggest ten thousand ways to “get over it,” therapy might help. But, for now, they are not safe people with whom to share intensely painful feelings. Not because they don’t love you or care about your feelings, but because their own feelings are triggered by yours, and they can’t handle it. For your own well-being, lovingly choose to share only the lighter stuff with them.
Because burying emotion often wreaks physical, mental, and emotional havoc—road rage, for example—it is vital and self-loving to share, but only in safe places and with safe people. Sharing intense and vulnerable emotions with trusted people allows you to mine the wisdom and insight to be found within them.
During your day...
Know with whom you can safely share tender, excruciating emotions.
For both your sakes, forgive and understand those with whom you cannot.
Emotion can introduce you to vast
reservoirs of inner wisdom.