Why We Hesitate To Express Feelings

We hesitate to express our emotions because we are afraid that our feelings may not be validated by others.

Guest Blogger Sadia Raval is the founder and Chief Psychologist of Inner Space Counseling and Assessment Center, located in Malad (West), Mumbai. Counseling, psychotherapy and psychological assessment are the main focus of Inner Space. You can find the Inner Space website here and read other articles written by her here.

A fellow therapist asked, on one of the forums that I am a part of, “Communication experts ask us to express feelings… What do we expect when we express feelings?”

In my mind I went on to wonder: for sure a number of people hesitate to express feelings… Why so? What would happen if we do express feelings? Especially say, if we are not heard?

I can think of two main reasons why people hesitate to express feelings:

1. It is awkward to say stuff that is emotional in nature and we do not know how to do that

2. We do not expect that it would make a difference.

The first point can be sorted by some practice and can be learnt once we are convinced that it would help to express ourselves and I am going to leave that for the next part of this article.

But the second one is the scarier one. “What if I express but I am not heard”.

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Or in the jargon of psychology, what if my feeling is not “validated”. Validation is a very deep need that we all have in relation to our feelings. So what is feeling validated all about?

Lets take a scenario:

You are angry. A colleague in office just put you down in front of your boss. You go and share the situation and the feeling with a close friend. What do you really want?

You want to be told that you are justified in feeling hurt. You also want to be told that it’s not unusual to feel so. More than anything else, you want to hear from her or him that the situation must have been difficult and painful.

What you do not want to hear: Your colleague is a great asset to the organization and even if she or he does put you down its ok. That you are overreacting and life is competitive. That your colleague must have had his or her reasons for doing this.

All the above statements in favour of your colleague may be true but at that time you do not want to hear them. Why is that so?

Because your reality at that moment is your hurt and it deserves attention.

The most important aspect of this is that “each and every individual’s emotions, no matter how realistic or unrealistic, practical or impractical they may seem to us at any point, are their reality and deserve attention in the same fashion.”

Feeling validated about how we feel makes it easier for us to process an emotion and move on. And that is what we need when we are hurt or anxious or gloomy or sad.

We want to know that we are feeling sad, upset or angry and that others, who matter, understand. That way it is easier for us to experience a feeling and slowly in our time put it aside.

And this is exactly what OTHERS need when they are in the same situation.

In my next post on this topic, I will be talking about why we don’t validate, and how to ask for validation as well as validate appropriately.

Pic credit: Marcus Schoepke (Used under a Creative Commons license)


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