- When a person doesn't express themself, they can become detached from their needs.
- Many people believe emotional expression can make a conflict worse, but it usually enhances intimacy and closeness.
- Expressing oneself and hearing the other person out is more important than making a case and being right.
A tremendous amount of relationship distress, as well as breakups and divorce, can be attributed to one meaningful factor: not sharing true feelings, particularly when they may bring conflict, with the people you care about.
When you don’t express your needs, your hardships, and your emotions, they accumulate. And, too, without authentic communication, relationships suffer. The beloved friend or life partner becomes a stranger whom you see regularly but who doesn’t really know you. Over time you may become numbed out and detached from knowing your deeper self.
When we form relationships where it’s okay to express whatever it is that we are feeling, we acquire over time a sense of safety and life has greater meaning and joy.
People tend to hold in their upsetting or difficult emotions out of fear. A deep fear of being vulnerable, of being seen, and then of being negated, guilted or shamed in some way for that vulnerability. So instead of saying what needs to be said, they strap on another layer of hurt, or hardship, or heartache, or loss, or pain onto their back and keep on climbing up the mountain. Eventually, the cumulative strain leads to feeling detached, with a lack of meaning and joy that only authentic connection can bring.
Nothing seems to make people shut down quicker than suggesting that they talk to their lover, friend, family member, life partner about how they really feel. They bristle and look afraid.
5 reasons people are afraid to share
Here are some reasons people are afraid to share what they need to share and how to start challenging these myths.
1. "It will make matters worse." This is by far the most common reason I hear about why a person doesn’t want to share their deeper emotions with a loved one. It’s true that at first expressing difficult emotions or thoughts can cause conflict, but by and large, it is also what creates intimacy and deeper connection. Each time you feel heard and you hear out your loved one, a tighter bond, intimacy, and safety is sewed into the fabric of your attachment. And too, if you don’t express how you really feel, these emotions may surface in unhealthy ways, such as acting out, passive-aggressive behavior, avoidance.
2. "I’ll seem needy." The idea that if we're deemed needy if we express unmet needs or messy emotions holds many people back. There is a way to communicate without burdening another person—“I’d like to share with you some difficult emotions I am having and see if we can talk it through a bit” is different from a screaming, crying panic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: You’re more likely to have an emotional breakdown and overwhelm your loved ones if you keep suppressing emotion. All of that unaddressed emotion is going to come out at some point, and then it may be hard for others to understand why you are so upset.
3. "I’ll stress the person out." I ask you, which would you prefer—for someone you care about to stress you out in the moment with their difficult feelings or to completely blindside you by ending the relationship? When we don’t have these kinds of meta-discussions about our relationships then unaddressed hurt mounts and eventually people end up pulling away or going through the motions with no real connection. It’s okay to have some stress and frustration—this is how relationships and people grow.
4. “They won’t get it." Expressing what needs to be said is more for you than the other person. You can’t control how they react but if you express yourself respectively, you will experience the benefits. You come to better understand yourself and to value yourself. Expressing your authentic feelings also provides an opportunity to see how your loved one handles these more complicated discussions and if they can be a healthy attachment for you in the long run.
5. “My feelings are wrong.” This is another confusing aspect of expressing ourselves. Right when it comes time to express your feelings, you may doubt yourself and your experience, thinking, "Maybe I’m not being fair,” or “This is just how I see things but they have their point of view and maybe my point of view is wrong.” These kinds of thoughts may stop you from having the confidence to express yourself. The whole point of expression though isn’t to prove a case and to be right. It’s to be emotionally honest with your loved ones and to also hear them out. In that process, you may change your perspective and hopefully feel better, but it’s the process of being vulnerable and hearing one another out that brings people closer, not proving or disproving the facts.
For more, see Getting Close To Others: 5 Steps.
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