How language helps and hinders emotional expression
I believe that fully experiencing our feelings, which can be challenging for those we’ve classed as “negative”, is imperative to cultivating meaningful personal relationships.
Yet our society operates with a strong judgement toward and low tolerance for feelings such as anxiety, fear, grief and loneliness. We label them as bad, unpleasant, inconvenient, imperfect and treat them as “problems to be fixed”. Because of this, our communication around these experiences (with ourselves and others) is often thwarted and actually induces shame.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine”
“Just forget about it”
“Oh that’s nothing, when XXXX happened it was much worse"
These phrases might be well intended, but what they actually communicate energetically is the non-acceptance of the “negative" feeling being experienced. When something as natural as a feeling is invalidated, a piece of our self worth can come into question, because we are ultimately affirming that this part of our experience isn’t worth time, space or existing.
No amount of well-intentioned “love and light” language will miraculously cause us to bypass the discomfort of fear, loneliness, confusion or doubt.
In the pursuit of meaningful human connection, I’m learning to welcome opportunities to open up and express how I’m really feeling (and being less “I’m Wonder Woman, I got this!”) But when it’s met with “you’ll be fine” I end up feeling so, fucking, unseen. I end up resenting all of the avoidance mechanisms rooted in the belief that vulnerability is weakness - when it is the gateway for true connection.
Brene Brown, the gift she is, speaks of using language such as:
Body language and eye contact matters too; gently reaching out and placing a hand on the other’s lap; holding their gaze; WITNESSING them in that very moment is extremely powerful and validating.
It takes courage to be honest about how we're feeling. It also takes great courage to show up in that moment for the other person when they’re sharing said feels, even though it might easier to dismiss an uncomfortable moment than show up for it - no matter which end you find yourself on.
While our individual experiences are unique, we can all relate to having these feelings and I believe sharing and holding space for them is ultimately what tethers our humanity together.
So in spite of finding myself in a pit of “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” and “where’s my tribe?” and slipping in and out of numbing the discomfort following the recent move to a new city, I’m continuing to practice holding space for these uncomfortable feelings - whether they be mine or someone else’s - by not labelling them, and just letting them be.
Sometimes, for me, that means tossing out the cerebral “shoulds” and succumbing to my momentary instincts to eat PB+J on toast, have ANOTHER coffee and write my guts out.