Why is the articulation of our feelings such a challenge? I am faced with this conundrum frequently. I have done years of work personally to improve my capabilities and still catch myself being complacent, not transparent, or even stumped at times stumbling over what actually comes out of my mouth.
So, let’s talk about those feeling words that are frequently difficult to articulate or communicate about. Fear jumps out right away. In fact, it covers a broad number of anxiety-inducing topics. We feel afraid of change, we feel afraid of dangerous situations, we feel afraid of other people’s actions or reactions, we feel afraid of the unknown. Or the opposite, we feel flat, depressive, stuck, or alone. Then there are those angry feelings, like agitated, irritated, annoyed. And of course, the more pleasant, like pleased, excited, joyful, and gracious.
In respect to the why, it is so hard to say what we need or want to say. I want to plant the seed that points to confidence and security. If we are fearful of someone else’s reaction, their interpretation, or opinion of how we are feeling what does that say about our self-esteem or feelings of security in whatever relationship?
Let’s use this example. Say you are feeling completely stuck, held hostage by a habit, but you are also feeling afraid of what life will look like without that habit and you are experiencing anxiety over any potential judgment if you tell anyone that your habit has taken control. Tough scenario, right? Especially if this habit has been hidden for any amount of time.
Now, this example is a very real and very deep situation for most. I have tried to keep it surface level here so you can personalize it with anything from nail-biting, to sugar consumption, shopping, or alcohol. So, let’s look at a potential approach to articulation that takes all of the feelings into consideration.
Ask yourself how it would feel if you could say, “I have a situation I keep to myself. Lately, however, I have become quite stuck in it. I am fearful of letting it go but I am also feeling held hostage. I am certainly not proud of my actions. I hope that you don’t judge me poorly because right now I am needing to create change and I would appreciate your input and support.” Can you imagine how much easier this might make it to share the “what” has you in feeling turmoil?
On a lighter side, although still quite difficult for many and still directly due to lacking confidence and security, is the ability to receive positive feedback about oneself. I’ll keep it short but just think about how you generally respond to a compliment whether about a job well done, an appreciated action, or pertaining to your appearance. Instead of discounting yourself what if you just said, “Thank You” or even “Thank You for your kind acknowledgment”. Believe me, I get this one, my siblings conditioned me to believe I was conceited because I talked about feelings of accomplishment openly (in elementary school mind you) so because of their disdain, I began to be afraid of negative judgment and not being liked if I did well at something. I have only in the past decade began to move past this limiting belief.
Now, I know that there are so many scenarios that can be uprooted and would fall between these two very different examples so I will leave you with some tips to help you cultivate the confidence and security to begin articulating your feelings.
1. Leave the external and get internally minded. Look at those things outside of you that seemingly have the power to change your mood, actions, and so on. Then get assertive with your thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, beliefs, needs, and wants. No more wishy-washy passive-aggressiveness.
2. Get effective and do what works. This means being mindful and willing to evaluate how you handle yourself. Investigate how you hear. Develop the capacity to move into resolution and cultivate tactics of assertiveness that will serve every piece of your life and the relationships within it.
3. Control your moments. (especially in times of distress) Here you must learn what self-soothing really looks like because having effective distraction handy and knowing your secret weapon the one that will improve your experiences is critical.
4. Leave the pain behind and lead with a new lens. It’s time that we can identify and describe our emotions. Better yet, how to observe and visualize letting them go. There is a way for each of us to regulate emotions and reduce vulnerability we just need to become determined. It's important that you realize wallowing and ruminating do not serve us.
All we have is the here and now. Yesterday has passed, we clearly survived it. Tomorrow hasn’t arrived, we can’t control it. But what we do today will be our foundation. Let’s make it solid!