Just Speak Up!

Finding the courage to say what's on your mind

Posted Aug 01, 2012

As I work with patients each day, I am often struck by how much they know about themselves and those around them. My patients are often more perceptive and insightful than they think they are. This is even more true after they have a little bit of therapy under their belts. As their own distortions and confusions are sorted out—or, in psychoanalytic-speak, as their own projections are reclaimed—people develop a more accurate view of what is going on with them and with those around them. 

With some effort and psychological knowledge, it is not that difficult to get the knack of how people operate. We can learn how to detect when someone in our lives is overreacting—and often we even can guess why. We can learn to see projections more than a few feet away. We begin to see how the past influences the present. We can develop a pretty good understanding of the dynamics in our relationships with our partners, parents, children, bosses, and friends. 

At first blush, it is rather perplexing that people don’t often make good use of what they know. I think this comes from a lack of courage. We know what to say, but we’re afraid to say it. We worry that our relationships are too fragile to handle the truth. We don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want to ruin what little peace we have left.  After all—we say to ourselves—we have to work with them, live with them, sleep with them. Better just to keep quiet.

But we all know the problem that ensues. There is no peace in that quiet. The pot of unspoken truth simmers. The feelings stew. The pressure mounts. And then we lose not only our cool but our perspective. When we finally speak up, we spew. And the truth of what we really had to say is lost.

So the key to speaking up—at least as I see it—is to speak up sooner rather than later. Speak up before your feelings take over. Speak up when you are seeing things more clearly. 

Copyright 2012  Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D.

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