Have you ever found yourself not knowing what to do with your emotions or feelings? Well, I’ve been there. Sometimes, we experience these glorious feelings that overjoy us and bring us happiness, and sometimes feelings can also hurt. Dealing with our feelings and making this a common practice is important. One way to do so is by talking about them. And while many people find it awkward to talk about their feelings and be emotionally vulnerable, it helps clear your mind and brings many benefits to your mental wellness.
Why is talking about your feelings so important?
First, your feelings matter. Even though some people might not see it that way, these are your feelings. If something upsets you, even if others think it is not worth being sad about, it is how you feel; your own personal experience has value. That’s why it’s important for you to process your feelings.
Second, talking about your feelings helps you to take control of your emotions. If you constantly just swallow your feelings and try to bottle them up, they might build up and eventually consume your mind. How you feel determines how you think and act. If you let these feelings take control of you, they also control your thoughts and actions.
How you feel determines how you think and act
Talking also allows you to acknowledge your feelings and you develop emotional awareness. Through talking it out, you understand your emotions and begin to figure out why you feel that way. One tool you can use to help you in this is the emotion wheel. It states 7 basic emotions that are then divided into more complex feelings: happy, surprised, bad, fearful, angry, disgusted, sad. You then can identify the reason behind your emotions and can help you find a solution.
Start from the center of the wheel with the basic emotions and branch outwards
If you keep your feelings to yourself, you might ignore or simply try to forget them. Sometimes this works with more trivial things, like getting annoyed about traffic. However, for more significant issues like a fight with friends or feeling stressed about work or school, it’s no longer healthy to keep it all to yourself; you need to acknowledge and start talking about these emotions. By doing so, you will start your personal healing process. After all, many people state that after a pleasant conversation about their feelings and troubles they felt relieved and ready to ‘move on’.
Why people rather keep their emotions to themselves
One reason people choose not to talk about their emotions is that they feel discomfort in being so open. We may feel this ‘awkwardness’ because we’re putting ourselves in an unknown or uncommon situation. Perhaps, you don’t know who to open up to, let alone how to start the conversation. Or, you’re not sure how the person you’re talking to will react and what they will say. For some, talking about their personal emotions means getting out of their comfort zone. In some cultures, talking about emotions is associated with being “weak”. This encourages people to hide their feelings and try to push their way through life to be seen as “strong”. But remember, there is strength in being vulnerable — you shift your focus to strengthen your emotional wellness.
Besides this ‘awkwardness,’ some people may feel that they are an emotional ‘burden’ to the other person. From personal experience, I know how hard it can be. I hesitated to talk to friends or family if I knew they were under stress as well. I didn’t want to be a burden to them or make them feel uncomfortable. One way to solve that is by simply communicating clearly. Before talking to someone, express your situation and ask if the person would be comfortable talking about it. That way you can reassure yourself that the conversation is wanted both ways.
How to avoid awkwardness when talking about your emotions
Before sharing tips on how to talk about your feelings, remember to always be truthful to yourself and your listener. Take some time and figure out the core of your feelings (use the emotional wheel for help). If it’s too overwhelming to think through your feelings alone, talking to someone will help. Don’t be scared and always express how you really feel. This also makes the healing process easier.
Most of the awkwardness also comes near the beginning of the conversation because finding the right words to start is always challenging. I know it’s difficult to share your emotions, especially if there is a lot going on in your head. Unsure of how to begin? Here are some ways you can start the conversation:
"I want to share something with you."
“I feel [insert emotion] right now. Could we talk about it if you have the time?”
“I just had a rough time after [insert your experience]. Can I share with you?”
“I’m feeling off and not sure why. Could you talk it out with me?”
“Lately I’m feeling [insert your experience], and I don’t know who I can talk to. Could we have a chat?”
Who to talk to when you feel ready
1. Talk to a friend or family member
One way to talk to someone is simply calling or meeting a friend or family member and explaining your situation and what you are going through. These people sometimes already know you very well and can understand your context easily to help you feel better. You feel trust and safe around them, which hopefully will make things less awkward too.
However, it is so important to check in with your friends and family to see if they are in a good place to listen to you. While getting emotional consent before you share your feelings with them may seem uncommon, you are being mindful of their time and energy. As mentioned before, your family or friends may be having a rough day themselves, and while they care for you and want to help, sometimes sharing your emotions would be overwhelming for them. Pick a time where you know you and the other person will be fully present.
2. Talk to a qualified listener
If family and friends are not your go-to, that’s okay too. A lot of times we have feelings we don’t want to share with someone close to us. Sometimes we feel so ashamed or don’t want to be a burden to that person; during these times, we would like to talk to somebody that does not know us personally but understands us mentally. Luckily, there are professionals and other qualified listeners out there who will have these conversations with you. While there are therapists and counselors for those going through more serious situations, you may just want to talk to someone who cares to listen. There are services like Talklet that provide you with qualified listeners (social workers) who will listen and also like to give advice on your situation.
3. Other ways to “talk”
Lastly, you may be in a situation where talking to someone might be a little challenging. Let’s say you’re in the middle of the night and you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions, or you just want some alone time to yourself while trying to process your feelings. What can you do? Well, the simplest way is to create a journal, whether a notebook or even typing on your phone. Journaling can help you let go of emotions that bothered you. You can also write what helped you overcome that feeling. The glorious thing about journaling is that you can also look back and see if you have been in that exact situation before and what you did.
What to do when someone shares their emotional experience with you
When someone wants to talk to you about their emotions, the first step is to check-in with yourself. Are you comfortable having this conversation and are you in a good place to support the other person? If you are not, communicate clearly and calmly. Bear in mind that it takes courage and trust for someone to come to you with their struggles.
But if you feel comfortable with talking with them, make sure you have enough time — nobody wants to be rushed while sharing a personal feeling. During the conversation, be an active listener and ask clarifying questions. Make the person feel heard and safe — they chose you for a reason!
Talking about feelings and being truthful to yourself can be hard, but remember we all have feelings. For some, it is easy to voice them and speak freely about it, and for others, it can be an actual struggle. No matter what side you are on, your feelings and emotions matter. And once you address them, you can feel a sense of power and control over your body. Your thoughts will shift, and with that, you can take on life from a new and happy perspective.
By: Jil Johannpeter