Feelings: Don’t Keep Them to Yourself
Sharing your feelings, thoughts, and needs is hard, especially if you have codependent traits. One of the core features of codependency is that you never developed a strong sense of self – who you are, what you think, feel, believe, or want.
What were you taught about feelings?
Were your feelings validated? Were you encouraged to have and express a wide range of feelings? Did your parents model how to express feelings in healthy ways?
A lot of families are uncomfortable with feelings. Sometimes feelings are taboo and there are unwritten rules that you’re not supposed to talk about your feelings. Or sometimes it’s overtly stated that some feelings (such as anger) are not okay. Children in these families learn that their feelings are wrong and that they shouldn’t have feelings or needs.
If this sounds like your family, you probably learned that you shouldn’t have feelings and you definitely shouldn’t ask for anything, depend on anyone, or want anything from others. You had to figure out how to meet your own needs and manage your feelings on your own. Often this leads to unhealthy attempts to bury, distract, or numb feelings.
Your feelings don’t just disappear
Feelings want to be acknowledged and expressed. They don’t just go away if you deny them and stuff them inside. Trying to distract yourself or numb your feelings doesn’t work. Feelings will continue to bubble up until you deal with them.
Feelings give you important information
Your feelings give you important messages about how to deal with situations, help you make decisions, understand yourself, and connect with others. For example, fear or anger can alert you to danger and help you make decisions to keep yourself safe. Likewise, if you feel emotional hurt, it alerts you that something’s wrong and helps you figure out how to proceed. If you don’t register the emotional pain, you won’t ask for what you need – to be treated with kindness and respect.
Sharing your feelings creates emotional intimacy
Openly sharing your feelings and needs with your partner can be scary, especially if you’re not used to doing it. There’s a chance that your partner will ignore, misunderstand, or reject your needs and feelings. There’s a chance s/he will judge you or use your honest sharing against you.
There’s also a significant chance that sharing your inner thoughts and feelings will bring you closer to your partner. We all have a deep need for understanding and belonging. We connect with others deeply when we share our vulnerabilities – our insecurities, fears, and shame-filled experiences.
Directly asking for what you need is a kind and generous thing to do. Your needs are more likely to be met when you communicate them clearly. Most people want to meet their partner’s needs. They have the best chance of doing this when they are communicated clearly and honestly. It’s not fair to expect your partner to guess or read your mind. You have to ask for what you need.
If you’ve been hurt in this relationship or a previous one, it’s only natural to want to protect yourself by building a strong wall around your heart. This wall will effectively keep you from getting hurt, but it will also keep you from fully loving and connecting. Others can’t love you unless you let them in!
There isn’t an easy or risk-free way to share your feelings. However, once you decide that you want a deep connection and accept that sharing more of your inner world is how we connect, you can gradually work toward sharing more of yourself. In a healthy relationship, sharing feelings is a gradual and mutual process. Acknowledging your fears about sharing your needs, desires, and feelings can be a great place to start. Your partner may be fearful of expressing his/her vulnerabilities as well.
Stay tuned for my next post on how to communicate your feelings.
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© 2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
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Martin, S. (2018). Feelings: Don’t Keep Them to Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 25, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2017/01/share-your-feelings-to-connect/