A great deal of the work I do with clients are helping them 1) identify what they are feeling/needing and 2) finding ways to express what they are feeling/needing.
Feelings exist for all of us, whether we’re able to put words to the feelings or not. Some of us are more naturally in tune with our feelings; some of us were taught to ignore our feelings or even push them down. Feeling our feelings, naming them, and knowing what to do with them is a skill that almost all of us needs help with from time to time…
The thing about feelings is that they, like every other living thing in the world, are a life-form and want to be expressed / need space to exist before subsiding and making room for other feelings. If we don’t give our feelings a clear pathway to expression, they find other ways to poke out. Anger at your partner, as much as you may try to push it down, can come out in seemingly disproportionate ways (getting overly upset when your partner buys the wrong brand of cookies) because the anger that existed before wasn’t respected, expressed, and worked through. The life-form of an emotion will find its way out, one way or another! Part of emotional maturity is understanding your feelings, respecting their need to be noticed and expressed, and being intentional about how you express them and work through them in ways that are healthy, non-harmful, and productive.
It always amazes me in sessions when I talk with clients and they describe what they are feeling in a situation – let’s say, in a conflict with a romantic partner. The vast majority of the time, my clients will really take the time to describe to me the situation, their confusion, their upset, their range of emotions, lack of understanding, feeling uncertain about how to bring it up to their partner, not wanting to say something that hurts the others, etc. And usually, they describe the situation to me with relative calm and full honesty. Nine times out of ten I’ll remark that it feels to me that, despite what they may believe, they actually know how to do an excellent job of describing exactly what they feel and what they need, because they just did it in front of me. Teaching clients how to carry that ability over to their real-life relationship is the work that comes next.
In Part 2, we’ll look more at specific ways to bring up tough conversations – how to phrase things, and ways to consider timing bringing up a sensitive subject.
Counseling can help you learn how to identify and better communicate what you are feeling and needing! If you’d like to schedule an appointment to address these concerns, please visit my contact page to make an appointment.