Thursday, December 3, 2009

Emotional Honesty –Is it “safe" to talk?

Recently, I have been talking with a number of people who are struggling with the issue of “opening up” about their thoughts and feelings with a significant person in their lives. These people want to talk about their inner experiences and for a variety of reasons are not sure if they should proceed. This can happen to all of us in a new relationship just as it can happen in older more familiar relationships. Here are a few points to consider about emotional honesty:

1)Opening up means allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It is important to understand what you are hoping to achieve by opening up about your feelings and whether the desired outcome is realistic. It is also important to understand what your fears are about opening up about some particular issue. What is the worst thing that you could imagine happening? Importantly, if this worst scenario did happen, despite the uncomfortable feelings, would you be okay and capable of moving on?

2)Intimacy is a two-way street. You can say that there is not enough intimacy in the relationship to feel comfortable talking about the feelings that you want to discuss. However, intimacy is also created by taking the risk and taking your conversations with that person to a new or different level. You can create a more intimate relationship by “inviting” someone to talk about things that you have not talked about previously. You are leading the way down the path of greater emotional intimacy for both of you.

3)Testing the waters. It is possible to talk about talking about your feelings before you actually begin. First, you can let the person know that there is something that you would like to talk to them about and possibly identify the positive reasons that you would like to open up this kind of a conversation, i.e., the relationship is important to you, you want to share more of yourself with them etc. Second, you can let them know what your worries or reservations about talking are, i.e., a fear of judgment, embarrassment, rejection, or upsetting the relationship. This will allow the other person to address those fears. If there have been incidents in your relationship in which you feel that when you communicated your thoughts and feelings and they were not responded to in a way that you hoped for, you may want to discuss this issue before moving forward. Only if and when you are satisfied that these are no longer significant concerns would you then proceed with what you want to say.

4)Why bother “opening up”? Not talking about your feelings is stressful and it causes emotional suffering. It creates emotional distance in relationships and can increase our sense of aloneness and isolation. Not talking about what is going on inside of us keeps us separate from others and our humanity. Not talking is also unhealthy. Stress takes a huge toll on our bodies and is linked to many serious health concerns and illnesses. Finally, not opening up about our inner experiences robs us of the opportunity to experience real happiness and deep connection with others.



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