Masking Our Emotions

Masking our Emotions PhotoWe are trained in communication from a very early age. The primary tool we use to connect with each other is through our verbal skills. And yet, there are times when we feel like we just can't get the words out about some emotion we are having.  Not only will we not express ourselves, we will try to cover up the emotions with something else.

Unfortunately, our non-verbal skills are very polished and they speak volumes of information about our state of mind. When our words and the non-verbal signs don't match, we create even more stress for ourselves.  A vicious cycle gets started.

We usually know when we have something brewing inside. We're anxious, sad, maybe even a little angry. And we may not know what the cause is, we just know something is there.

The Case Against Keeping It All Bottled Up

When we hold onto uncomfortable feelings, energy is still moving. But it's moving inside of us without the benefit of resources outside of us. What that means is that we will be going round and round with our thoughts using only what we already know, instead of getting different perspectives with which to understand our feelings.

Let's say your partner has the habit of being late to meetings with you, dates, etc. You're frustrated and don't know how to tell them you are.  You keep those feelings contained and they begin swirling around in you.  We are all compelled to make meaning out of our experiences, so your system begins to try to understand why they are always late.

At first, you can imagine some reasonable explanations for it. Some people can be satisfied with that and begin releasing those frustrations.  But for many, the simple explanations give little feeling of relief and they move into the next phase of story making. 

At this point we begin making up our own fictitious reasons for something that happened.  Some of us get very good at story making and we can really come up with some good ones! They really don't want to see us. They don't love us anymore. They think I'm ugly. It can go on and on and on like this!

Now that energy is becoming toxic to us and we can begin to have emotional and even physical symptoms. Finding ways to get that energy out of us, to express your feelings and frustrations, is the best way to relieve yourself of a potential unhealthy situation.

Find a Creative Way to Release It

"Just go talk to them" is the advice that friends and family will give at this point.  This might ultimately be the solution, but there could be dozens of reasons that you don't want to talk to them right now.  So now what?

Some people find exercise is a good way to cleanse oneself.  Go running or jogging. Call up a friend to play tennis.  For a longer term solution, take a yoga class or get involved with a community soccer team.

Getting outside around nature might help. Go walk on the beach. Hike up a mountain trail. Or surround yourself with tall trees in a forest setting. Focus your attention outside of yourself on the nature around you. 

Buy a couple of blank journals, find someplace quiet and just write. Write whatever wants to come out. Poetry, stories, or just a stream of consciousness. Touch the pen to paper and write whatever comes out. It may not be words but pictures that need to come out. Draw away! Let them come out!

Find a Stand-In

For some it can help to talk over feelings with a friend as if you were talking to your partner.  They won't need to try to act like your partner. Once you get started, they will fill in the gaps. They may ask questions to help you focus your words where they are most helpful.

This role-playing activity may be a good way to release the feelings, or it may give you a sense of how to approach your partner with the conversation.

A word of caution; this can be challenging for your friend, and they may not be up to the task. If that's the case, you might try finding someone else who can help.  A counselor, minister, or someone involved in support groups could be a good resource. These people are skilled at listening and asking questions and are able to be unbiased and objective.

Clear Your Emotions for Clearer Thoughts

Finding a good outlet to help release some of the bottled-up emotions wil help you think through the situation with a clear mind. You'll have a better starting point from which to decide how to talk to your partner.  The goal is for both of you to understand and work on the frustration so that you can get back to enjoying each other and your relationship.

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