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Being in Touch With Our Emotions

We all have different emotional truths, and it's important to be aware of that.

Emotions can be complicated, but they do serve many functions. They help others know how we’re feeling about something, but they also allow us to get in touch with our own feelings.

Often, in order to function in society, we hold back our true emotions. Timing is certainly everything, especially when it comes to sharing feelings. Being in touch with our emotional truth is very important in the therapeutic relationship, and also as writers, because it can lead to healing and transformation.

In her article, “3 Ways to Know When to Show Your True Emotions,” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., suggests that you consider your own ability to regulate your emotions and what your triggers are, establish your level of safety for sharing your emotions, and think about your accountability.

When teaching memoir writing, I remind students that everyone has a different emotional truth, even if two people are going through the same experience. Sharing your emotional truth is about telling your story from your heart, rather than entirely from your mind. The emotional truth of a story is the truth of how you feel about it, and not so much about the details of what happened.

Whether you’re writing or telling your story out loud, it’s important to share the truth versus what you think others want to hear. Take ownership of your story. To find your emotional truth, consider saying to yourself, “Here is how I see it,” or “This is my take on the story.” The focus should be on the story and the details connected to it.

The point is that you want to remain true to the way you lived through your experience. Author Pat Conroy, who died a couple of years ago of pancreatic cancer, said that truth is relative and that he didn’t worry too much about it when writing his memoirs. He said that if you get wrapped up in what the absolute truth of a story is, then your story will not be told, and the silence around not telling your story is what can deplete an individual of bliss. In fact, he brilliantly said that it is the silence associated with untold stories that can get people into trouble. In other words, what is not said can be more harmful than what is actually said.

As you recall events from your past, you will discover certain emotional truths about yourself and your lived experiences. Remember, you’re recalling your own emotional truth, no one else’s. If you’re sharing a story and are overly mindful of hurting others, then chances are you’re not telling your emotional truth and are basically living a facade.

Living a facade reminds me of my last trip to China back in 2008, when the country was preparing for the Olympics. In addition to trying to figure out how to minimize respiratory problems in smog-filled Beijing, the residents were also working on creating a good front to present to the world. The tour guide took us through some downtown residential areas, showing us how the outside of the buildings and apartment complexes were being refurbished, but when she took us inside, we noticed that some of the conditions were below the poverty level. She told us that it was very important to the Chinese culture that the outside of the buildings be refurbished, but what they looked like inside was less important. In other words, spending money on the facade to impress toursts was more important than the actual living conditions of the Chinese people.

When I think of storytelling that does not connect to emotional truth, I think of that visit to China. Putting up a smokescreen may be effective in getting a message across, but it is a phony message. Stories that don’t have emotional truth do not carry energy or vitality, and storytelling becomes somewhat journalistic in nature.

Often our emotions get stored in our bodies. Rather than telling others the way we truly feel, our feelings remain trapped inside us because it feels safer that way, but this can negatively affect our sense of well-being. Releasing true emotions is healthy and can help protect against disease.

If you’re wondering how to connect with your true emotions, here are some tips:

  • Sit in a quiet place, and focus on your abdominal area. Center yourself.
  • Place your right hand on your abdomen, and repeat three times, “Please reveal my true emotions.”
  • Listen for the answers that come to you, and write them down.
  • Repeat this exercise as often as needed.


Epstein, M. (1995). Thoughts Without a Thinker. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Whitbourne, S.K. (2014). “3 Ways to Know When to Show Emotions.” Psychology Today online. August 23.

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